Welcome!

@CloudExpo Authors: Nate Vickery, Gopala Krishna Behara, Sridhar Chalasani, Tirumala Khandrika, Karthick Viswanathan

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

The Unspoken Challenge of Cloud Silos

Successful Cloud Computing will need to break IT's oldest barriers

On a recent excursion to a tech event I had the pleasure of meeting a well-known ‘VM Guru', (who shall remain nameless). Having read some of this individual's material I was excited and intrigued to know his thoughts on how he was tackling the Storage challenges related to VMware especially with Fibre Channel SANs.

"Storage, that's nothing to do with me, I'm a VirtGuy", he proudly announced.

To which I retorted, "yes but if there are physical layer issues in your SAN fabric, or poorly configured Storage etc. it will affect the performance of your Virtual Machines and their applications, hence surely you also need some visibility and understanding beyond your Server's HBAs?"

Seemingly annoyed with the question, he answered, "Why? I have SAN architects and a Storage team for that, it's not my problem. I told you I'm a VirtGuy, I have my tools so I can check esxtop, vCenter etc..." as he then veered off into glorious delusions of grandeur of how he'd virtualized more servers than I'd had hot dinners. As fascinating as it was to hear him, it was at this point that my mind was side tracked into realizing that despite all the industry talk of ‘unified platforms', ‘Apps, Servers & Storage as a Service' i.e. the Cloud, the old challenge of bridging the gap between silos still had a long way to go.

Let's face it Virtualization and the Cloud have brought unprecedented benefits but they've also brought challenges. One such challenge that is dangerously being overlooked is that of the silos that exist within most IT infrastructures. Indeed it's the silos that have led to the new phenomenon that is coined as, ‘The Virtual Stall'. The Virtual Stall was never an issue several years ago as Virtualization was happily adopted by Application owners to consolidate many of their ‘Crapplications' that meant little or nothing to them and certainly didn't carry the burden of a SLA. Storage teams were none the wiser as VM admins requested large capacities of storage for their VMFS and despite the odd performance problem no one was too bothered as these VMs rarely hosted Tier 1 Apps. With the advent of VDI, large VM backups and critical applications such as Exchange and SQL being virtualized, the ordeal of maintaining performance took root, resulting in the inevitable ‘blame game' between silos. Fast forward to today and despite all the talk of Private Clouds, the fear factor of potential performance degradation resulting in the virtualization of mission critical applications has led to the ‘Virtual Stall'.

Business and Management have been convinced of the benefits of consolidation, reduction in data foot print, power/cooling etc. that they initially saw with the virtualization of their low tier applications. This has led them to want more of the same for higher end applications leading to what many organizations are terming a ‘VMware First' policy. Under pressure from them the silo of the application owners still don't have a true understanding of server virtualization and hence are reluctant for their Tier 1 apps to be migrated from their physical platforms. At best they may accept two mission critical VMs on a physical server. Under pressure to prove the Application owners wrong and maintain the performance of virtualized applications, the silo of the VMware administrators will often over-provision from their pool of Memory, CPU and storage resources. Furthermore the VM Admin silo also lack a real understanding of Storage and at best will think in terms of capacity for their VMFS stores, while Storage Admin will think in terms of IOPS. As this lack of understanding and communication between the silos exists and grows so too do the challenges of making the most of the benefits of server virtualization.

One of the key mistakes is that it's often over looked that whether on a virtualized or non-virtualized platform, application performance is heavily affected by its underlying storage infrastructure. The complexity of correctly configuring storage in accordance to application demands can range from deciding the right RAID level, number of disks per LUN, array cache sizes to the correct queue depth and fan-in / fan-out ratio. These and other variables can drastically influence how I/O loads are handled and ultimately how applications respond. With virtualized environments the situation is no different, with Storage related problems often being the cause of most VMware infrastructure mis-configurations that inadvertently affect performance.

Even with the option of Raw Device Mapping, the alternative for VMware storage configuration, VMFS is often the most preferred due to its immediate advantages in terms of provisioning and zoning. In this method several Virtual machines are able to access the same LUN or a pool of LUNs. This becomes far more simplistic as opposed to a one to one mapping ratio that is required for each LUN for each Virtual Machine with the RDM option. Additionally this makes backups far easier as the VMFS for the given Virtual Machines need only be dealt with instead of numerous individual LUNs that are mapped to many Virtual Machines. VMFS volumes can be as big as 2TB and with the concatenation of additional partitions which are termed VMFS extents, this can then be as large as 64TB i.e. 32 extents. With a Storage Admin unaware of such distinctions within VMware, it's easy to also be unaware of the best practices with extents, such as creating these on new physical LUNs to facilitate additional LUN queues or throughput congestion. Coupled with this, if extents are notassigned the same RAID and disk type you quickly fall into a quagmire of horrendous performance problems. In fact it can be pointed out that the majority of VMware performance problems are in fact initiated at the beginning of the provisioning process or even earlier at the design phase and are a result of the distance between the silos.

As mentioned already application owners will pressure VM administrators to overprovision Memory and CPU to avoid any potential application slowdowns, while the VM administrator will falsely think along the lines of capacity for their VMFS in terms of Storage. At best a VM Admin may request the RAID level and the type of Storage e.g. 15K RPM FC disks but it is here that the discrepancy arises for the Storage administrator. The Storage Admin, used to provisioning LUNs on the basis of application requirements, will instead not be thinking of capacity but rather in terms of IOPS and RAID levels. Eventually though as there is no one to one mapping and the requested LUN is to be merely added to a VMFS, the storage administrator, not wishing to be the bottleneck of the process, will proceed to add the requested LUN to the pool. Herein is also the source of a lot of eventual performance problems as overtly busy LUNs begin to affect all of their aligned virtual machines as well as those that share the same datastore.  Moreover if the LUN is part of a very busy RAID group on the backend of the storage array, such saturated I/O will impact all of the related physical spindles and hence all of the LUNS they share. What needs to be appreciated is that the workload of individual applications presented to individual volumes will be significantly different to that of multiple applications being consolidated onto a single VMFS volume. The numerous I/Os of multiple applications alone even if sequential, will push the Storage array to deal with these numerous requests as random, thus requiring different RAID level, LUN layout, cache capacity etc. considerations than those for individual applications.

Once these problems exist there is a customary troubleshooting procedure that VM and Storage administrators often follow which take from the metrics found in vCenter, esxtop, vscsiStats, IOMeter, Solaris IOSTAT, PerfMON and the Array management tool. This somewhat laborious process usually includes measuring the effective bandwidth and resource consumption between the VM and storage, moving and using other paths between the VMs and storage and even reconfiguring cache and RAID levels. To have even got to this point days if not weeks would have been spent in checking for excessive LUN and RAID group demands, understanding the VMFS LUN layout on the backend of the storage's physical spindles, investigating the array's front end, cache and processor utilization as well as bottlenecks on the ESX host ports. Some may even go to the lengths of playing around with the Queue Depth settings, which without an accurate insight is at best a guessing game based on rule of thumb. Despite all of these measures there is still no guarantee that this will identify or eliminate the performance issues, leaving VMware to be erroneously blamed as the cause or that the application is ‘unfit' to be virtualized. Ironically so many of these problems could have been proactively avoided had there been a better understanding and communication between the silos in the design and provision phase.

While it could be argued that Application, Server / VM and Storage teams all have their own expertise and should stick to what they know, in today's unified Cloud-driven climate remaining in a bat cave of ignorance justified by the knowledge that you're an expert in your own field is nothing short of disastrous. Application owners, VMware and Storage Admin have to sit and communicate with each other and destroy the first barrier erected by silos i.e. knowledge sharing. This does not require that a Storage Admin set up a DRS cluster or a VM Admin start provisioning LUNs but what it does mean is that as projects roll out a common understanding of the requirements and the challenges be understood. As the technology brings everything into one stack with vStorage APIs, VAAI and terminology such as orchestration that describe single management panes which allow you to provision VMs and their Storage with a few clicks, the need for the ‘experts' of their field to sit and share their knowledge has never been greater. Unless the challenge of breaking the silos is addressed we could be seeing Kate Bush's premonition of Cloudbursting sooner than we think.

More Stories By Archie Hendryx

SAN, NAS, Back Up / Recovery & Virtualisation Specialist.

@CloudExpo Stories
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software. They hope to capture value from emerging technologies such as IoT, SDN, and AI. Ultimately, irrespective of the vertical, it is about deriving value from independent software applications participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridhar, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, discussed how given the magnitude of today's application ...
The “Digital Era” is forcing us to engage with new methods to build, operate and maintain applications. This transformation also implies an evolution to more and more intelligent applications to better engage with the customers, while creating significant market differentiators. In both cases, the cloud has become a key enabler to embrace this digital revolution. So, moving to the cloud is no longer the question; the new questions are HOW and WHEN. To make this equation even more complex, most ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
As you move to the cloud, your network should be efficient, secure, and easy to manage. An enterprise adopting a hybrid or public cloud needs systems and tools that provide: Agility: ability to deliver applications and services faster, even in complex hybrid environments Easier manageability: enable reliable connectivity with complete oversight as the data center network evolves Greater efficiency: eliminate wasted effort while reducing errors and optimize asset utilization Security: imple...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
The past few years have brought a sea change in the way applications are architected, developed, and consumed—increasing both the complexity of testing and the business impact of software failures. How can software testing professionals keep pace with modern application delivery, given the trends that impact both architectures (cloud, microservices, and APIs) and processes (DevOps, agile, and continuous delivery)? This is where continuous testing comes in. D
Modern software design has fundamentally changed how we manage applications, causing many to turn to containers as the new virtual machine for resource management. As container adoption grows beyond stateless applications to stateful workloads, the need for persistent storage is foundational - something customers routinely cite as a top pain point. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Bill Borsari, Head of Systems Engineering at Datera, explored how organizations can reap the bene...
Digital transformation is about embracing digital technologies into a company's culture to better connect with its customers, automate processes, create better tools, enter new markets, etc. Such a transformation requires continuous orchestration across teams and an environment based on open collaboration and daily experiments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Alex Casalboni, Technical (Cloud) Evangelist at Cloud Academy, explored and discussed the most urgent unsolved challenges to achieve f...
The dynamic nature of the cloud means that change is a constant when it comes to modern cloud-based infrastructure. Delivering modern applications to end users, therefore, is a constantly shifting challenge. Delivery automation helps IT Ops teams ensure that apps are providing an optimal end user experience over hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud environments, no matter what the current state of the infrastructure is. To employ a delivery automation strategy that reflects your business rules, making r...
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone in...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Dumas, Calligo’s Vice President and G.M. of US operations, discussed the new Global Data Protection Regulation and how Calligo can help business stay compliant in digitally globalized world. Greg Dumas is Calligo's Vice President and G.M. of US operations. Calligo is an established service provider that provides an innovative platform for trusted cloud solutions. Calligo’s customers are typically most concerned about GDPR compliance, application p...
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Michael Burley, a Senior Business Development Executive in IT Services at NetApp, described how NetApp designed a three-year program of work to migrate 25PB of a major telco's enterprise data to a new STaaS platform, and then secured a long-term contract to manage and operate the platform. This significant program blended the best of NetApp’s solutions and services capabilities to enable this telco’s successful adoption of private cloud storage and launching ...
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
Mobile device usage has increased exponentially during the past several years, as consumers rely on handhelds for everything from news and weather to banking and purchases. What can we expect in the next few years? The way in which we interact with our devices will fundamentally change, as businesses leverage Artificial Intelligence. We already see this taking shape as businesses leverage AI for cost savings and customer responsiveness. This trend will continue, as AI is used for more sophistica...