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Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation

© Copyright IBM Corp. 2006. All rights reserved.



Many companies are experiencing a rapid proliferation of commodity Intel® servers. These systems are typically equipped with a small amount of internal or direct-attached disk storage. As server numbers grow into the hundreds, the management complexity for both servers and storage increases exponentially, putting a strain on limited administrator resources and IT budgets. Server and storage consolidation using VMware ESX Server software and IBM® N series storage systems significantly reduces these problems. VMware allows multiple operating system instances to run on a single physical machine and does not require major changes to existing application software. Previous VMware implementations have demonstrated that it is possible to reduce the number of deployed Intel-based servers by 50% or more while achieving: 60% to 80% utilization rates (up from typical rates of <15%) Application provisioning time measured in seconds, not days Response times for change requests measured in minutes Zero-downtime hardware maintenance


Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation

The benefits of VMware are uniquely complemented by IBM N series storage solutions. Using IBM N series technology, storage can be consolidated onto one or a few storage systems accessed across Fibre Channel SANs or regular IP networks see (Figure 1). This dramatically simplifies storage provisioning, increases asset utilization, and allows a company to take advantage of IBM N series data protection and disaster recovery functionality. This paper describes the real-world experiences of a customer that reduced its server count 50% and implemented a tapeless storage infrastructure using VMware and technology that is used today with the IBM N series.


Enterprise Departmental Enterprise



iSCSI Fibre Channel Dedicated Ethernet Corporate LAN

SAN (Block)

NAS (File)


IBM N series

© 2005 IBM Corporation

Figure 1 IP and SAN networks

Customer challenges

Customer challenges are: Server proliferation results in rising complexity and costs. Low asset utilization.

Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


VMware and IBM N series value proposition

This offers: Simple server/storage virtualization Reduced operating costs Increased business flexibility Advanced data protection and disaster recovery

Deployment results

These are: Servers reduced >50% Server management cut 20% Tapeless backup for rapid recovery Bare metal recovery in 30 minutes Disaster recovery for all critical business applications Dramatically increased IT flexibility


Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


Using many of the features and capabilities available today in the IBM N series the customer hosts Oracle via CIFS while providing Fibre Channel SAN storage used by VMware and Microsoft® Exchange servers. If you were using an IBM N series it would look similar to Figure 2.


Exchange Oracle


Fibre Channel

CIFS Ethernet

SAN (Block)

IBM N series


© 2005 IBM Corporation

Figure 2 Microsoft Exchange and Oracle

Like many organizations, the company's Intel-based server environment has grown exponentially over the years to support additional business requirements and applications. At the time, it relied on over 100 servers. After internal benchmark studies against similar companies in the same industry showed that the number of servers was significantly above average for the number of users supported, the company launched an initiative to lower operating costs by reducing servers. In 2004 the company selected VMware as an enabling technology to replace physical servers with virtual hardware instances running on powerful multiprocessor systems.

Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


VMware requires either direct-attached or SAN-based disk storage. The company chose a Fibre Channel SAN to allow storage to be consolidated onto the existing storage systems utilizing the functions made available by Data ONTAP. While building a new Fibre Channel infrastructure can be expensive, the VMware server consolidation project server count was cut dramatically and overall expenditures were significantly reduced. Costs were also offset by the advantages of consolidated storage and the advanced data management capabilities offered by technology also used in the IBM N series today.


Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


The company's SAN infrastructure utilizes two storage systems using the same software suite available in the IBM N series today--one in its main data center and another in a secondary data center. Both storage systems are configured to support SAN-attached VMware servers (see Figure 3) using the multiprotocol capabilities of Data ONTAP. An Exchange server in the main data center also utilizes SAN storage with SnapManager for Exchange software. Gigabit Ethernet is deployed throughout each data center. Redundant DS3 circuits link the primary data center to the secondary data center.


VMware Servers




VMware Servers


© 2005 IBM Corporation

Figure 3 SAN attached VMware servers

Both storage systems have FCP Target cards installed, while all VMware servers are configured with QLogic 2342 adapters. Microsoft Exchange 2003 hosts have Emulex initiator cards installed. Servers and storage systems are connected to a Brocade model 3800 fabric switch using factory default settings and no zoning. Three four-processor Xeon® servers have been configured with VMware ESX server software. These VMware ESX servers are configured to access LUNs on the storage system in the primary data center. Data ONTAP provides the capability to create these LUNs using traditional or FlexVol volumes. An

Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


additional four-processor machine is connected to the SAN in the secondary data center and configured in standby mode. VMware SAN volumes and other volumes on the primary storage system are mirrored to the secondary storage system in the secondary data center using SnapMirror software. In the event of a disaster affecting the primary data center, critical applications running under VMware can be quickly restarted in the secondary location. LUNs are provisioned in their own qtrees. Following best practices, each virtualized server is allocated a qtree in a SAN_vmware volume on the storage system. In addition, each VMware LUN is formatted as a VMFS-2 volume. This allows the VMware Virtual Center to be used to migrate a virtual machine from one VMware ESX server host to another while the server is live. This facilitates maintenance or other administrative needs while minimizing application disruptions.

Configuring an IBM N series Fibre Channel SAN with VMware

Once the appropriate software is installed, configuring the VMware ESX server to access IBM N series storage via Fibre Channel protocol (FCP) is simple. VMware allows the administrator to map LUNs to the virtual SCSI disks used by each virtual machine instance. Provisioning LUNs on the IBM N series storage systems requires the following steps: 1. Decide the size of the LUN, the LUN ID number, and where it will reside on the storage system (use Linux® as the Host OS type). 2. If not already present, create an initiator group for the host. 3. Run LUN setup on the IBM N series storage system via the command line, or use the LUN Wizard tool in IBM N series FilerView (see Example 1).

itsotuc1> lun setup This setup will take you through the steps needed to create LUNs and to make them accessible by initiators. You can type ^C (Control-C) at any time to abort the setup and no unconfirmed changes will be made to the system. Do you want to create a LUN? [y]:

Example 1 lun setup

Once the LUN is created, use the VMware administrative interface to map the LUN from the storage system to the specific virtual server.


Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation

In sizing the LUN for VMware, increase the size slightly to account for VMware administrative space. VMware uses this space to accommodate information about the instance and to store the memory contents of the virtual server when it is suspended.

VMware migration

The company created LUNs that were 2 GB larger than the storage requirement to accommodate VMware. After the company created its LUNs and virtual servers, the LUNs were mapped to individual virtual servers and the instances started. A migration tool from VMware called P2V was used to move data from existing physical servers to VMware virtual servers. After a period of testing and a brief outage for each, the physical servers were retired.

Figure 4 Storage system Fibre Channel SAN configuration with VMware software

Backup and disaster recovery

In any data center, backup and recovery is critical. In this deployment, Snapshot and SnapMirror technology help the company protect virtual server data and speed recovery in the event of a disaster. The VMware Perl scripting API makes it simple to automate the capture of a consistent Snapshot copy of active data. Every night at 8 p.m. the virtual machines (VMs) are suspended. Then the VMware instances and the Host OS buffers are flushed to disk, creating a consistent OS image on the storage system LUNs. Once the instances are suspended, the Perl scripts direct the primary storage system to take a Snapshot copy of the VMware volume. Once

Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


the copy has been created, the VMs are resumed. This process is similar to using a database's hot backup mode -- suspending I/O to the disks while the backup process creates a consistent copy of the database. The entire process, from begin suspend to resume VM, usually completes within 30 to 120 seconds on normally loaded servers in the lab. The Snapshot portion takes less than 5 seconds. At 9 p.m. the Snapshot copy is mirrored to the secondary data center using SnapMirror software. As described above, the secondary site is running an identical storage system plus a single standby VMware ESX server. In the event of a disaster or inadvertent loss of data at the main site requiring an extended outage, the remote site can use the SnapMirror copy of the data to restart critical virtual servers with minimal disruption to ongoing operations. Once the situation is resolved, the SnapMirror technology allows a reverse mirror to be initiated. This is transparent to the applications, and when the mirror has been synchronized, a brief outage allows operations to resume at the main site.

Figure 5 Process to automate the capture of a consistent Snapshot copy of active data


Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation

In addition to allowing recovery in the event of a disaster, the Snapshot copies at the main site or from the mirror at the remote site provide consistent copies of the LUN images for backup purposes, allowing tape copies to be made for off-site archival without any additional virtual server downtime.


When the project began, the company relied on 105 servers across 9 locations, supporting a wide variety of applications including Oracle, Exchange, Web serving, Microsoft SMS, print, and file serving. By simplifying its IT infrastructure with VMware and technology that is used in the IBM N series today, the company was able to reduce the number of deployed physical servers to fewer than 50 -- a reduction of more than 50% -- without eliminating any services. To further decrease complexity, the company reduced the number of locations where business servers were deployed by 66%, with the remaining three main sites interconnected with high-speed networking connections. This effort significantly simplified the company's IT infrastructure while making it easier to provide appropriate protection and disaster recovery capabilities for critical applications. As a result, the head count directly responsible for server management functions fell 20% from 2.5 people to only two. Consolidating server storage on the storage systems has given the company much greater control over its data. In the past, backups were performed across the company's networks and had to be throttled to prevent network bottlenecks. With the high bandwidth between the three major sites, this is no longer an issue. For individual file restores, the company has completely eliminated a previous service level agreement of 4 hours. The metric is no longer needed because restores occur in minutes. In addition, the previous tape environment had a much higher risk of losing data, and bare metal recovery of a failed server could take from 8 to 12 hours. Today, the company uses Acronis True Image software to back up virtual server images to a FlexVol or traditional volume. The volume is also replicated to the secondary site for DR. In testing, bare metal recovery of critical servers can now be accomplished in 30 minutes.

Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


Improved disaster recovery is another major advantage. Snapshot technology and SnapMirror software have replaced tape backups with a completely tapeless solution. In the past, the company provided disaster recovery for only a small part of its overall environment. With SnapMirror, the company provides DR for all its critical applications and can rapidly add DR capability for any application that requires it (see Figure 6).

Multi-protocol, Heterogeneous Environment


Disaster Recovery Disk-based Backup


© 2005 IBM Corporation

Figure 6 Disaster recovery and disk-based backup

The company has also found that resource usage is very efficient in its VMware environment. VMware efficiently shares processor and memory resources between instances of the same OS, so fewer processors and less memory has been needed than originally anticipated, while end users report that application performance has actually increased noticeably. VMware allows the company to quickly implement new servers for proofs of concept or new projects. The company no longer has to budget immediately for new hardware and software; it can just configure a new virtual server. Their storage systems and SAN technology complement this capability. Today, the company makes changes to its storage environment four or five times a week with no disruption to users.


Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


The combination of VMware software and IBM N series storage solutions offers significant advantages for companies consolidating servers and storage to reduce costs and increase operational efficiency. VMware allows companies to reduce server counts by 50% or more without major application changes, while making it possible to adapt much more rapidly to support new projects and new applications. IBM N series solutions simplify a company's overall storage infrastructure, creating a storage system that adapts rapidly to changing needs while improving data protection and disaster recovery -- often by reducing or eliminating the need for tape-based solutions.

The team that wrote this IBM Redpaper

Much of the material in this IBM Redpaper was provided by Network Appliance, Inc. and reproduced for use by IBM by Alex Osuna of the International Technical Support Organization, Tucson.

Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation



Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


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This document created or updated on January 9, 2007. Send us your comments in one of the following ways: Use the online Contact us review redbook form found at: Send your comments in an email to: [email protected] Mail your comments to: IBM Corporation, International Technical Support Organization Dept. HYTD Mail Station P099, 2455 South Road Poughkeepsie, NY 12601-5400 U.S.A.




The following terms are trademarks of the International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both: Redbooks (logo) TM IBM® System StorageTM

The following terms are trademarks of other companies: VMware, the VMware "boxes" logo, GSX Server, ESX Server, Virtual SMP, VMotion and VMware ACE are trademarks (the "Marks") of VMware, Inc. Snapshot, Data ONTAP, SnapMirror, SnapManager, FilerView, Network Appliance, The Network Appliance logo, the bolt design,Camera-to-Viewer, Center-to-Edge, ContentDirector, ContentFabric, NetApp Availability Assurance, NetApp ProTech Expert, NOW, NOW NetApp on the Web, RoboCache, RoboFiler, SecureAdmin, Serving Data by Design, Smart SAN,The evolution of storage, Virtual File Manager, and Web Filer are trademarks of Network Appliance, Inc. in the U.S. and other countries. All other brands or products are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders and should be treated as such. Microsoft, and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Intel, Xeon, Intel logo, Intel Inside logo, and Intel Centrino logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States, other countries, or both. Linux is a trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product, or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others.


Using a IBM N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation


Using an IBM System Storage N series with VMware to Facilitate Storage and Server Consolidation

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