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What are the benefits of VMware Virtual Volumes?

As storage tries to catch up to the rest of the data center, VMware Virtual Volumes are helping to get there and support the trend toward software-defined storage.

Virtualization has radically changed the way that compute resources are provisioned and managed across the modern...

data center. On the other hand, storage provisioning has largely remained mired in legacy volume and logical unit number allocation. These traditional storage entities are time-consuming to provision, inflexible and often inefficient. But storage is poised to catch up with VMware Virtual Volumes.

What are VMware Virtual Volumes and what benefits do they bring to the enterprise?

Storage provisioning has long lagged behind other resources in VM provisioning and management. Storage is typically allocated manually as a volume or logical unit number (LUN), which is far larger than a particular VM might need. In many cases, the large LUN would need to hold multiple VM images and data, which vastly complicates backup and restoration efforts, because a LUN is an all-or-nothing entity; there wasn't enough granularity to restore individual VM files or other data components used by the virtual machine.

Since a LUN is allocated in advance, the storage capacity is committed upfront, even though it might not all be used -- however, thin provisioning helped to mitigate idle storage capacity. But if a LUN runs out of space, it cannot be expanded, and stored data would need to be manually migrated to a larger LUN. Ultimately, traditional storage poses a serious manual bottleneck for IT administrators in an otherwise virtualized data center.

VMware Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) are logical constructs designed to support the growing industry trends toward software-defined storage. The idea is to extend the virtualization capabilities of VMware's vSphere, and start allocating and managing storage on a per-VM basis -- similar to the methodology that a hypervisor currently uses to handle processor and memory provisioning.

The benefits of VMware VVOLs will offer a huge help for your enterprise. For example, storage can be organized into service classes across Fibre Channel, iSCSI and Network File System storage systems. This allows faster and more expensive storage to service critical workloads, while slower and less expensive storage can serve secondary applications. Storage is provisioned in a granular manner, with just the right amount of storage -- at the right class -- allocated to meet the VM's needs. Provisioning can be invoked automatically using established policies, which also reduces errors and eliminates common change management problems.

There are other advantages of VMware VVOLs. Storage can also be automatically provisioned on request, allowing software developers, application owners and other administrators across the enterprise to use storage more efficiently. Application storage use and storage performance can now be monitored on a per-VM basis. In addition, VVOLs support an array of storage-related services that have traditionally been relegated to the storage array hardware, such as data deduplication, migration, disaster recovery, replication and caching.

Next Steps

The requirements for VMware Virtual Volumes

How do VMware VVOLs work?

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This was last published in November 2015

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