What happened while getting 100% Virtualized

I often think about how many people have stalled around getting to 100% virtual. I know you are thinking I need to find some fun things to do. You are probably right.

The first thing I thought when I deployed my very first virtual infrastructure project back in the day was, “Man, I want to see if I can virtualize EVERYTHING.” This is before I knew much about storage, cloud, and management. I may be naive but I think there is real potential out there to achieve this goal. There is low hanging fruit still out there depending how you deploy your infrastructure. Having attended VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) I know how the ecosystem is built around your journey to virtualization. The biggest slide to resellers and other partners is the one VMware shows off that says, “Every $1 a customer spends on VMware they buy $9-11 in infrastructure.” Which I fully believe is the reason many customers never saw the FULL cost savings they could have when going virtual.

Roadblocks

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I believe we all ran into a couple of different kinds of roadblocks on our path. First were organizational. Line of business owners, groups within IT and other political entities made traveling the road very difficult. Certain groups didn’t want to share. Others started to think VM’s were free and went crazy with requests. Finally the very important people who own the very important application didn’t want to be virtual because somehow virtualization was a downgrade from dedicated hardware.

Then if we were able to dodge the roadside problems organizationally, there were technical problems. Remember that $11 of drag? The big vendors made an art of refreshing and updating you with new technology. I know, I helped do it. So performance was a problem? Probably buy more disk or servers. Then every 3-5 years they were back, with something new to fix what the previous generation did not deliver on. This “spinning drag” in the case of storage slowed you from getting to your goal. 100%.

Disillusionment

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At some point you lose the drive to be 100% virtual. The ideal has been beaten out of you. Well at least my vendor takes me for steak dinner and I get to go to VMworld and pretend I am a big shot every year. This is where you settle. Resign yourself to the fact that everything is so complicated and hard it will never get done. The big vendors make a huge living on keeping you there. Changing the name from VI, to Private Cloud, Hybrid super happy land or whatever some marketing guys that have never opened the vCenter client think of next.

Distractions

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So trying to rebuild Amazon in your data center? Probably lots of other things to fix first. Using more complicated abstraction layers may help in the long run to building a cloud. I see more customers continue to refresh wasteful infrastructure with new infrastructure while they are still trying to figure this out. What we need is a quick an easy win. Make things better and save money right away. Then maybe we can keep working on building the utopian cloud.

The low hanging fruit

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When we first started to virtualize we looked for the easy wins. To get you rolling again down the path we need to identify the lowest hanging fruit in the data center. We found all the web servers running at 1% CPU and 300MB of Ram (if that) and virtualized those so quick the app owner didn’t even know it happened. Just like a room of 1000 servers all running at 2% CPU usage there are giant tracks of heat generating spinning waste covering the data center. You had to get so many of them and stripe so wide just to make performance serviceable. You wasted weeks of your life in training classes to learn how to tweak and tune these boat anchors because it was always YOUR fault it didn’t do what the vendor said it would.

Take that legacy disk technology and consolidate to a system made to make sure it is not the roadblock on the way to being 100% virtual. I remember taking pictures of the stacks of servers getting picked up by the recycling people and now is the time to send off tons of refrigerator sized boxes of spinning dead weight. I am not in marketing so I don’t want to sound like a sales pitch. I am seeing customers realize their goal of virtualization with simple and affordable flash storage. No more data migrations or End of Life forklift upgrades. No more having to decide if the maintenance is so high I should just buy a new box. Just storage that performs well all the time and is fine running virtual Oracle and VDI on the same box.

How we do it

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How is Pure Storage able to replace disk with Flash (SSD)? Mainly, we created a system from the ground up just for Flash. We created a company that believes the old way of doing business needs to disappear. Customers say, “You actually do what you said, and more.” (Biggest reason I am here). Also, do it all at the price of traditional 15k disk. Not there on SATA, yet.

  1. Make it ultra simple. No more tweaking, moving, migrating or refreshing. If you can give a volume a name and a size you can manage Pure Storage.

  2. Make it efficient. No more wasted space due to having to short stroke drives, no more wasted space because you created a RAID 10 pool and now have nowhere to move things so you can destroy and recreate it.

  3. Make it Available. Support that is awesome because things do happen. Most likely though most of your downtime is planned when it comes to migrating or upgrading code. Pure Storage will allow zero performance hit and zero outage to reboot a controller to upgrade the firmware/code (whatever you want to call it). Pretty nice for an environment that needs ultimate it uptime.

  4. Make sure it alway performs. Imagine going to the DBA’s and saying, “everything is under 1ms latency, How about you stop blaming storage and double check your SQL code?” Now that is something as an administrator I wanted to say for a long long long time.

Once you remove complicated storage from the list of things preventing you from thing preventing 100% virtual you can focus on getting the applications working right, the automation to make life easier and maybe make it to your kid’s soccer games on Saturday.

Written on March 18, 2014