Extending Democratization of Storage Services Through Virtualization

By Hubert Yoshida posted 11-14-2018 00:00


In my last blog post I explained how Hitachi Vantara’s All Flash F series and Hybrid G series Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) Systems can democratize storage services across midrange, high end, and mainframe storage configurations. Midrange customers can enjoy all the high end functions that are normally only available on high end systems since Hitachi’s VSP platform is powered by one Storage Virtualization Operating System RF (SVOS RF).


In that post I shared the CRN interview with Dell’s Vice Chairman Jeff Clarke, where he announced their plan to consolidate four disparate midrange products and focus on one. That plan immediately drew questions from other vendors as to how they would manage the migration when they transition from the old to the new. This plan was also limited to midrange products and did not extend to high end where features like active/active metro clustering (VPLEX) and SRDF replication are only available on their VMAX and PowerMax systems. SRDF replication is used to provide non disruptive migration for VMAX systems, but is not available on their midrange products.

In other words, their storage plans do not go far enough and do not address the key question of migration for their midrange storage. Hitachi Vantara can provide a solution for EMC Dell users by virtualizing their current EMC Dell storage arrays and democratize the use of Hitachi VSP high end enterprise storage services, making them available to all EMC DELL users, whether they are midrange, high end or mainframe. This capability is not limited to EMC Dell but is applicable to any vendor’s fibre channel or iSCSI attached storage arrays. As the name implies, the signature feature of our VSP is virtualization. Our approach to storage virtualization is unique in the industry since we do the virtualization in our Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) controllers with a Storage Virtualization Operating System RF (SVOS RF). Hitachi storage virtualization can greatly simplify storage management, particularly when used to consolidate and virtualize arrays from multiple storage vendors or multiple storage array architectures from the same vendor. We announced storage virtualization in 2004 with our Universal Storage Platform (USP). Hitachi was one of the first to announce storage virtualization and has carried that forward in our latest VSP Hybrid (G Series) and All Flash (F Series) storage systems.


While other vendors approached storage virtualization through the use of appliances sitting on the Storage Area Network (SAN), Hitachi’s unique storage architecture enables the virtualization to be done in the storage controller. The advantage of this approach ensures that Hitachi storage virtualization would have the same reliability, availability, scalability, and performance of an enterprise class storage system, rather than the limited capabilities of an appliance sitting on the SAN. Externally attached, fibre channel or iSCSI, heterogeneous storage is presented as a common pool of storage to the VSP controller and benefits from all the Hitachi enterprise features of the VSP such as Active/Active Metro Clustering, three data center disaster recovery, predictive analytics, and automated management of common workflows. Other vendors’ midrange and enterprise storage, which lack these features, are immediately upgraded with these services when they attached to the VSP. Our approach to storage virtualization is a perfect complement for server virtualization and we were the first storage virtualization vendor to certify with VMware.

Virtualized third party storage can also benefit from VSP’s Storage Plug-in for Containers. Containers are a new form of lightweight and portable operating system virtualization without the overhead of an operating system image. All the necessary executables are inside a container; binary code, libraries, and configuration files to run microservices and larger applications. Containers were designed to be stateless which means that its disk files go away when the container goes away. In order to persist the data and make it easier to manage storage, Docker introduced a set of commands for volume management. This enables storage vendors to create plugins to expose their storage functionality into the Docker ecosystem. Hitachi Storage Plug-in for Containers lets you create containers and run stateful applications by using Hitachi VSP series volumes, including externally virtualized volumes, as dynamically provisioned persistent volumes. Hitachi Storage Plug-in for Containers utilizes built-in high- availability to enable a Docker swarm manager or a Kubernetes master node to orchestrate storage tasks between hosts in a cluster. Storage Plug-in for Containers can also be used in non-clustered environments.

Since external storage uses the licensed services of the host VSP, there is no need to have separate licenses for the external storage. This not only reduces license fees, but also reduces the operational cost of managing features and licenses on the attached storage systems. Virtualization can further reduce costs by extending the life of legacy systems that have already been capitalized or reduce costs by non-disruptively migrating systems when a refresh is required.

According to legacy systems are the Achilles heel for digital transformation. “Unfortunately, many businesses today are hard-coded in technology investments of the past: legacy systems – containing the data that they need to make decisions today and drive insights. Now more than ever, reliance on legacy systems is one of the biggest hurdles in the digital transformation journey.”

When it comes to upgrading legacy infrastructure, the biggest challenge is the upgrade of storage systems. Unlike compute and network infrastructure, storage is stateful, because it has data that must be moved from the old to the new storage system. This movement of data takes time and as the amount of data continues to increase, the data migration extends into days, weeks, and even months. The least disruptive and easiest way to move data is through storage virtualization. Virtualization of legacy storage ensures that applications can continue to access the data while it is being moved in the background. The VSP's bidirectional FC and sSCSI ports allow simultaneous host and external storage connectivity without the need for dedicated "eports" and host ports. Logical device migrations are able to proceed while the original logical device remains online to the hosts and the VSP will seamlessly switch over the mapping from the source logical device to the target logical device when completed. No changes to host mapping are required.

Appliance based virtualization systems, can move data in the back ground, but performance, reliability, and scalability are limited by the capabilities and resources of the appliance compared to a fully functional enterprise virtualization engine with its large cache and large number of bi-directional ports. Utilizing an enterprise storage controller also leverages the built-in security features of the controller and management interfaces such as antivirus, role based access for secure management, authentication and authorization, audit logging, and directory services.

So, if your storage vendor is planning to consolidate their storage platforms without a plan for migration, or you are struggling with a number of legacy storage platforms and would like to upgrade to the latest enterprise capabilities without ripping and replacing your storage estate, please consider using Hitachi’s VSP storage platform to help you with the migration and consolidation. Our VSP systems can come without any internal storage attached in the event that you already have enough capacity in your legacy storage and you want to virtualize and extend the useful life of your current storage, or you want to use it as a sling box to move data across storage systems. However, the biggest benefit would be to leverage all the capabilities that are available in the VSP/SVOS RF