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The future of VMware storage - vVol demo

Headshot 100X100.jpgBy Calvin Zito, @HPStorageGuy  vexpert 2012 logo.gif


Last year at VMworld, VMware did an NDA technology preview for partners about their vision for the future of storage - something they called vVols (virtual volumes).  While VMware is allowing partners working with them to talk about it and demonstrate early functionality, I want to be clear - this is still a technology preview and neither VMware nor HP is making any commitments on delivering this.  So with that disclosure, let me tell you a bit about what it is.


Intro to VMware vVol

For awhile now, HP Storage has been working with VMware as a design partner to define and develop a VM-granular storage architecture to potentially replace vSphere’s VMFS/datastore model. This new model is called VMware Virtual Volumes (vVols). Virtual Volumes introduces a 1:1 mapping of VMs (more specifically VMDKs or VM LUNs) to storage volumes—in other words, each VM will be associated with its own, unique storage volume. With vVols we could finally have the VMDK representation in vSphere match the representation on storage.


As a result, the storage system could now have the ability to operate at the same level of granularity as vSphere, which means that vSphere could better leverage, and take advantage of, the native strengths and capabilities of modern, intelligent storage arrays, like HP 3PAR.


Again, I want to be clear that this is a possible future technology from VMware. Essentially, vVols could replace VMFS as we know it today and the concept of datastore. The key thing is that a vVol allows for per-VM data services on the storage array and vSphere hosts. Data services that inherently run more efficiently on intelligent storage, which owns and stores all of our critical data, could include:


  • Replication
  • Snaps
  • Caching
  • Encryption
  • Security
  • and more

Why vVol?

I think the big thing VMware and storage partners like HP want to overcome is the inefficiencies and the challenges that exist today as a result of working at the LUN or volume level with vSphere. Despite all the advances that have been made, when a VM and VMDK is the unit of data management, a LUN is too coarse to gain the efficiency and flexibility customers need. The granularity mismatch between vSphere and storage systems needs to be resolved. Enter vVols.


What are the benefits 

Here's a summary of what vVols will do:


  • Enables VMware to offload per VMDK-level operations to storage systems
  • Enables storage systems to provide data services to individual applications and VM’s
  • Enables application profile-based provisioning, monitoring and management of VM Volumes via vSphere and VASA
  • Levels the playing field in how storage is deployed, regardless of protocol -- with vVols, storage systems create and manage VMDK objects the same way regardless of the protocol frontend (FC, iSCSI, NFS) that is used to export said objects

Seeing is believing

What better way to help you see all this but to share a video demo, so here's a demo showing several things using vVols and HP 3PAR:


  1. Create virtual volume VM on HP 3PAR
  2. Clone a virtual volume VM
  3. Create virtual volume VM snapshot (array-based
  4. Recover a virtual volume VM from a 3PAR snapshot
  5. Delete the virtual volume VM snapshot

Here's the video



What do you think about the VMware vVols? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


UPDATE: I'm trying a new communication format - the ATSB eBook.  My first one includes screen shots of the vVol demo that I have on video.  Check it out and expect more of these in the future.  

VirtualVaughan | ‎10-10-2012 09:03 AM

Interesting stuff Calvin! How are the VMDK's mapped to the host?

nate | ‎10-10-2012 04:07 PM

This is an awesome post! Thanks for the info.. I had been hearing bits and pieces on VVOL over the past year but when I run searches online there is really very little information that I could find. Now I have something I can link to! (wasn't sure if the info I knew about VVOLs was under NDA or not so I didn't write anything on it myself!)


VVOLs sound pretty neat in concept, though that is a lot of objects to manage! For both the storage system as well as vCenter itself. I think the architecture of 3PAR with the CPGs, fine grained allocation for the 3PAR VVs, and even Dynamic optimization itself lends themselves very well to the VMware VVOL concept.


I think it presents some sort of managment challenge from a storage UI perspective though, my arrays have always been fairly organized, volumes are easy to identify their purpose, with VVOLs there will be tons of extra stuff in there that can be distracting.


All round it sounds good, I'm pretty excited.

| ‎10-10-2012 04:24 PM

VirtualVaughan - I don't know how that mapping happens but I'm pretty certain it happens when you create the VM; the VM and vVol get created at the same time. Another source for information here is Duncan Epping's blog.  He has a post he did recently talking more about vVols.

| ‎10-11-2012 10:06 PM

Hey Nate - not sure how I missed your comment. I'll preface what I say with "I know nothing" ... of our future plans.  But I do know our team is looking at what we can do and is needed to better manage HP Storage in a VMware environment.  Obviously we already have the Insight Control for HP Storage plug-ins; they're thinking about the future beyond that based on where VMware is going.  Exciting times!

Jephtah | ‎10-14-2012 10:52 AM

Thanks Calvin,


What is the protocol that is used between the ESX host machine and the external storage array? Is it the T10 OSD? Also, how does it affects the performance comparing to the good old block level protocols?

jeffrey wolfanger | ‎10-16-2012 02:48 AM

Sounds cool intially, im just thinking of more management for storage people though.  I would think that storage drs answers the inefficency your mentioning....Interesting article thanks for sharing.  

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25+ years experience around HP Storage. The go-to guy for news and views on all things storage..

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