Curious about VMware Virtual Volumes?

Curious about VMware Virtual Volumes?


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Curious about VMware Virtual Volumes?

Written by David Glynn:

For several years we’ve been talking VMware Virtual Volumes, or VVols for short. And we’ve been saying that it is coming, coming soon. Well we are still saying that, and it is coming soon, I promise, but I can’t tell you when. However, what I can do for you today, is to let you get your hands dirty with VVols running on EqualLogic Storage. Pretty cool, right?

For VMworld 2014, we worked with the VMware Hands-on-Lab team to create a lab from which VMware customers, not just Dell Storage customers could experience VVols first hand. Folks got to experience not only how day-to-day tasks, like snapshots and cloning are accelerated by the Virtual Volume integration with Dell EqualLogic and how the work flows involved remain similar (because as cool as tech can be, no one like it when things changes for no good reason), but they also got to perform a number of the VVols configuration steps, and then perform the same configuration tasks but with fewer steps and from a single interface using the Dell EqualLogic Virtual Storage Manager vSphere plugin.

However, the fun didn’t stop at VMworld! Since then we’ve made a few performance tweaks to make things run faster, and now we are proud to announce that the lab is available and accessible around the clock at

Oh, and to brag a little bit, we were the only one of VMware’s many Storage Partners to do this. Just another example of Dell and VMware working hand-in-hand.

For those of you asking “What are VVols, and why should I care?”, let me summarize it for you into one word. Granularity. Literally, that is hundreds of blog posts and slide decks summarized into one word. Granularity. And what do I mean by that? VVols enable block storage to be VM-aware, and as your SAN, if I am aware of you and understand you, I can do things better with you. But better in what way?

Granularity. There is that word again. Today when we use SAN snapshots to protect virtual machines, we do it at the datastore/volume/LUN level (datastores, volumes, and LUNs are all the same thing, it just depends on who in the datacenter you are talking to). This means that the virtual machine you want to protect, that business critical SQL database server, is bringing some baggage with it, which is that not so important but chatty file & print server. This works, but adds overhead and inefficiencies.

With VVols, you pick the individual virtual machine you want to protect, and nothing else. An individual virtual machine can have a very particular protection schedule because of business need or SLA or simply because “Hey, we can do that? Cool!” Oh, and did I mention that you’ll do this directly from the vSphere Web Client? And that it will be faster? As for the file & print server, I’ll still be snapshotting that, but just once a month on the second Tuesday. Yup I created a snapshot schedule template called Patch Tuesday.

One more thing, because I know some of you don’t find data protection exciting. Can I interest you in the health benefits of VVols? With VVols your virtual machine is now a series of volumes on the array, and as a VM-aware array we know which volumes go together to make up a particular virtual machine. This means that when you want a copy of a virtual machine, and VMware ask us do the work, all we have to do is clone a few volumes. And cloning volumes is old hat for an intelligent virtualized array architecture like EqualLogic.

So how is this a health benefit? How long does it take to clone a virtual machine from template? Personally I’ve no idea, because I just go get another cup of coffee, and it is done when I get back. But with VVols it is done before I leave the cube. Sometimes I still go and get coffee.

Still have a thirst for more information about VVols? VMware has already published over 400 sessions from last month’s VMworld 2014 in San Francisco. These can all be accessed from this page:

I recommend the “Virtual Volumes Technical Deep Dive” presented by VMware and “VMware VVOL Technical Preview with Dell Storage” co-presented by Dell and VMware. Between these two sessions, you’ll have a firm understanding of what VVols will mean for you and your datacenter.

You can also read Simplify administration and management with new vSphere Virtual Volumes here.

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