Archive for April, 2008

Will De-Duplication Save Virtualization?

Know What Virtualization Is, But What Is Next? – Chapter 12

About 2 years ago, or a bit more, I was sitting at a small table in my favorite local Thai restaurant, eating my favorite Thai dish, green curry chicken, delivered hotter than heck, in fact, hot as Godzilla’s breath? But I digress. We were actually discussing troubles with virtualization in general. Several jokes were made about how crazy it was that virtualization was accelerating beyond any of our expectations, as I recall, we all agreed the rate of virtualization was going to get out of hand, to become a monster. Godzilla came to mind again.

Close your eyes, slip back in time, for about 2 years, remember the lack of mature management tools, issues with virtual instance scaling, environment scaling, emergence of dual-cores, and then coming of the quad-cores, relatively slow PCI bus/server backplane, which is still an issue, etc, etc. But one of the key issues, at least based on my recollection, was backup/restore of virtual instances. Regardless of the type of virtualization, regardless of the vendor discussed, backup and restore was expensive, if not, impossible at any significant scale. Lets be honest with ourselves, we all saw this, we all knew the scaling ceiling was coming, we all whined about it to anyone that would listen. Never mind the fact that disaster recovery models based on traditional models, at the time, could never be called efficacious. Ah, you can open your eyes now.

As I said, this was about two years ago, or maybe a bit more, and where we? Well, to be honest, not very far. Wait, wait… Hear me out. I say we are not far along, because the options marketed or published for the last two years have been functional, but not scalable to any reasonable degree. All the previous solutions required extensive infrastructure, based on traditional methods with a strong heritage based on cloning or dumping to tape in total, which was just about effective as tanks and rockets against Godzilla. Solutions that scaled 1-to-2 or even 3-to-1 virtualization hosts to a backup/restore proxy are not cost effective when hundreds of hosts and thousands of virtual instances are at risk. We need to leverage solutions that can leverage 5-to-1 sites, yes sites, avoiding extensive bandwidth consumption for disaster recovery preparation. Why? Because we continue to add sites or additional hosts at a significant rate, and bandwidth, be it SCSI based, fabric based, or even TCP/IP based, is still bandwidth. Given that many enterprise entities do not own their data storage or communication network infrastructure, extra bandwidth, can and does incur significant cost in a site to site context.

De-duplication is the anti-monster super weapon? What is de-duplication? In short, it is avoiding replication of identical data at a very low level integral to the respective storage solution in use. Although not limited to virtualization, de-duplication is wonderful for virtualization, since hypervisor based and even application instance virtualization often has a very high degree of static or common binary data per instance. Why would any one archive identical binary data over and over? But that is what is being done over and over. What a monster! Can we exhume Raymond Burr? Better yet, can we create a virtual Raymond Burr instance that reminds us all, as he did in 1955, that we are to blame for this monster?

Now, I am not going to make this easy for you, I am not going to recommend a specific de-duplication solution, but I will say this, NetApp, and EMC via Avamar, among others, know that de-duplication is a strategic direction, and are going at each other like Godzilla versus Radon, which means that all of us looking at de-duplication for virtualization are now citizens of Tokyo? That is a bit of stretch, true. But if you are not looking at de-duplication options for effective virtual instance backup/restore at significant scale, never mind, disaster recovery, do so. Because no one knows when a 60,000 ton monster is going to stomp, smash, and otherwise pancake flat, one or more datacenters like just a bunch of toy models sitting on green outdoor carpet. Not to mention what all that smoke from the cheesy firework based special effects will do to all the tape media, still being used.

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