Vanderpool was the code name of Intel’s Virtualization Technology of x86 (or VT-x), which introduced extended page tables and enabled multiple operating systems to run simultaneously on an x86 computer in a safe and efficient manner. VT-x was the first means of hardware acceleration for VMware and the other x86 hypervisor vendors.
With today’s release of vSphere 4.1 VMware has delivered the first set of vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI). VMware and key storage partners, led by Dell, EMC, and NetApp, have continued the direction originally established by Intel to extend the scaling of virtual infrastructures by enabling hardware acceleration with storage arrays serving ESX/ESXi clusters.
Today’s post is on VAAI, which is merely one of the three primary vStorage constructs available with vSphere 4.1. The other two are:
Either I or one from the vSolutions Engineering team will post more on SIOC and Performance Reporting later this week.
vStorage APIs for Array Integration – 101
VAAI provides hardware acceleration that allows storage operations, traditionally provided by the hypervisor, to be completed by the storage array. These capacities allow ESX/ESXi to operate more efficiently and scale to greater capacities with reduced resource consumption (host CPU, storage I/O, etc).
The capabilities of VAAI in this initial release include:
Full Copy – enables the storage arrays to make full copies of data within the array without having to have the ESX/ESXi hosts to read and write the data. This API will reduce the time and network load on cloning and migrating VMs with vMotion.
Did you know that without VAAI the process of cloning a 10GB VM requires 10GBs to be read and 10GBs to be written over the storage network?
Block Zeroing – enables storage arrays to zeroing out a large number of blocks to speed up provisioning of VMs. This API will reduce the time and network load when formatting an Eager-Zeroed thick VMDK.
Did you know that without VAAI the process of formatting a 10GB VM requires 10GBs of zeros to be written (or sent) over the storage network?
Hardware Assisted Locking – provides an alternative means to protect the metadata for VMFS cluster file systems and thereby improving the scalability of large ESX server farms sharing a datastore. This API will replace the traditional SCSI-2 locks, thus enabling larger datastores.
Did you know that without VAAI the maximum ESX/ESXi cluster size supported with View deployments where linked clones are used is 8 nodes?
Quite simply, your virtual infrastructure will scale further with VAAI than without. VAAI is a level of measurement of the intelligence within your storage arrays. Much like Data deduplication or TSCS from NetApp, once enabled these technologies allow hardware to scale to greater limits. Doing more with less, now that’s a win!
Does VAAI Support VMFS & NFS?
vSphere 4.1 contains the first release in what is planned to be multiple of VAAI. In this initial release, these APIs will only support VMFS datastores.
Now let’s be realistic… SAN connectivity is rock solid and includes very robust multipathing capabilities; however, since June of 2006 VMware on NetApp NFS has had a significant advantage over traditional SANs in the areas of storage array integration with ESX/ESXi.
Zero cost VM clones, I/O offloaded cloning, direct access to storage based snapshot backups, storage transparency with the use of data deduplication, and scaling uber large / dense datastores are just a few of such benefits which come to mind when using NetApp NFS with ESX/ESXi.
It’s no secret some in the storage industry cannot accept the scaling of NFS, which is truly unfortunate especially when they label it as FUD. Do you recall my post on systems from NetApp & Cisco powered the labs at VMware’s TechSummit 2010? What I didn’t share in that post was the entire lab was ran on NFS specifically to meet the scaling requirements of such a demanding lab, with a high level of concurrency running on small storage footprint.
Allow me to be frank, it’s about time SANs received a little love from our engineers and closed the gap with NFS.
If you are a NFS customer don’t despair; VMware and NetApp (and even EMC) have a number of NFS enhancements, which we are engineering for future releases of VAAI. Trust me, when these are delivered, you’re going to be blown away.
A Few Housekeeping Notes Before I Close
VAAI is available with vSphere 4.1 Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions, and supports VMFS datastores served by block-based storage protocols FC, iSCSI, FCoE on arrays running Data ONTAP 8.0.1 in 7-Mode. 8.0.1 is targeted for release in Q4 2010.