How VSAN & VVOLs Will Impact Storage Administrators

Software-defined storage is poised to take a leap forward with vSphere 6, VSAN and VVOLs. Storage administrators will need to expand their skills in order to keep up.

Scott Sinclair

February 10, 2015

3 Min Read
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In the wake of VMware’s recent vSphere 6 announcement, I want to shine some light on two specific innovations that look to kick off a new chapter in storage technology. Specifically, Virtual SAN (VSAN) 6 and Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) could dramatically increase software-defined storage adoption and alter the way organizations manage storage technology, impacting the role of the storage administrator

Despite the hype, software-defined storage (SDS) adoption is still rather nascent. A majority of organizations are still trying to understand how SDS might fit in their environment.  The combined pervasiveness of vSphere and the inclusion of VSAN, however, look to change that and dramatically accelerate SDS adoption. With vSphere 6.0, VSAN will be sitting in front of nearly every virtualization admin waiting to be enabled.

For organizations are not ready for a full software (VSAN) approach to storage,  vSphere VVOLs provides easy-to-use VM-level storage management for existing storage array providers. And when I say “existing providers,” I mean nearly everyone, including Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, and NetApp to name a few.

VSAN and VVOLs are the start of a trend to make storage automated, VM-centric, incredibly simple for a virtualization administrator. The new world will be a far cry from the old days when storage administrators had to manually zone switches, specify spindles for deployment, and manage expansion capacity.  With storage capabilities becoming VM-centric and automated for virtualization administrators, what is the future for the storage administrator and how will storage administrators provide value?

Moving forward, it will behoove any storage admin to expand his or her skill set beyond the traditional storage activities. There are two potential directions in which I foresee storage administrator responsibilities evolving, with many of these skills already appearing as requirements in employer job postings:.

Expanding from storage to data management: With storage container creation and protection quickly becoming automated, an area where storage admins can  add value is to go deeper and understand the content, and how that content ties back to business value and risk. Security is quickly becoming a hot topic. ESG just completed its 2015 IT spending intentions survey; not too surprisingly, information security was overwhelmingly the top priority identified by respondents for this year.

While many organizations have governance and compliance elements in place for certain workflows, it is highly likely that your organization has one or multiple content stores with little to no oversight. Understanding your data’s content and the potential security risks that your content presents, along with the relative policies and audit procedures, is critical.

A deeper understanding of the data also ties into another popular trend: analytics. I find it surprising how little many storage administrators understand about the business value of the data and how their infrastructure can be optimized for big data analytics. A deeper skill set that understands business risk for security, and business value for analytics, can only help to improve your worth to the organization.

Evolving from storage to infrastructure architect: With the emergence of new platforms such as IaaS via public, private, or hybrid cloud technologies and SDS with VSAN 6, along with other proprietary and open source solutions such as Swift of Ceph, storage is no longer isolated to just an array.

Understanding how to integrate software-defined storage and cloud storage elements into a traditional environment, as well as understanding the return on investment, performance, and reliability tradeoffs are a must. The world is moving to a hybrid environment; it is in the best interest of any storage administrator to be ready.

The impact of VMware’s storage innovations in vSphere 6 will resonate throughout the storage industry. Be ready, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

About the Author(s)

Scott Sinclair

Analyst, Enterprise Strategy GroupScott Sinclair is a storage analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group. He has a proven history in both the storage and data protection industries of investigating new technologies and designing business strategies for Fortune 500 technology companies. Scott earned a Bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University in Computer Engineering and also holds a Masters in Business Administration from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas.

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