Primary Storage for VMware on AWS – Zadara Briefing Note

VMware on AWS has been available for over a year, yet there are several missing elements. There are a lack of available data protection solutions and there is a lack of a truly enterprise class storage solution. The primary challenge is the Amazon’s elastic block storage (EBS) is not natively shareable across VMware on AWS VMs and it lacks enterprise grade features. Shareable storage is a requirement to extract the full value from and achieve high availability in any virtualized cluster and the lack of this capability is a non-starter for many.

VMware’s solution to the sharability problem is to use vSAN, which uses replication to copy data between vSphere nodes. Each node has a dedicated EBS volume assigned to it and vSAN copies data to specific nodes in the AWS cluster. While vSAN has come a long way in recent years there are other options that IT planners may want to consider. The primary concern with the vSAN approach is that capacity is consumed at a 3X than normal rate (assuming a 3 to 1 replication model).

There are other VMware Cloud on AWS storage options emerging but while they may not have the resource consumption of vSAN they do have a concern that almost any shared storage system has, contending with noisy neighbors. IT needs an enterprise class storage solution, which eliminates the noisy neighbor problem, uses cloud storage resources more efficiently and emulates the “as-a-service” model that makes VMware Cloud on AWS so appealing.

Introducing Zadara for VMware on AWS

Zadara is an enterprise storage solution that provides block, file and object storage that is sold as a fully-managed, consumption-based service, either on premises or in the cloud. Storage Switzerland has covered Zadara since 2013. Even back then we were impressed with their ability to handle the multi-tenant use case. Instead of striping data from multiple clients across every node and disk in the storage cluster, Zadara assigns specific physical drives to each client attaching to the cluster. Only that client has access to its assigned drives.

Zadara for VMware Cloud on AWS takes advantage of VMware NSX to make Zadara file, block and object storage available to guest virtual machines running in AWS.  The virtual machines get the capabilities they we’re accustomed to with on-premises enterprise storage solutions, but in a fully managed cloud model that reduces the management burden. Like any cloud resources, the solution can scale up or down depending on the need.

The Zadara for VMware on AWS solution also provides resource isolation. The IT planner has direct control over what flash or hard disk devices are allocated to the VMs and which hosts can access those devices. The dedicated devices approach, instead of shared resources, assures that the organization’s VMware on AWS environment won’t be impacted by other instances. And even though the resources are dedicated, the solution is elastic because resources can be added or removed on the fly.

StorageSwiss Take

As mentioned above Storage Switzerland has been covering Zadara since 2013, and the company has been in business since 2011. Their solution is available both on-premises and in the cloud, as well as a combination of both (hybrid cloud). The combination of Zadara with VMware on AWS seems like a perfect fit. Zadara brings the enterprise-class features that VMware customers expect, plus true multi-tenancy.

Customers can also leverage the same solution in their on-premises use cases, simplifying management and standardizing on the same storage acquisition model throughout the enterprise. Certainly for VMware on AWS customers this is worth a look but even customers that have been holding out on VMware on AWS may find Zadara to be the missing piece of the puzzle that enables them to move forward.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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