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In a few weeks I’ll be presenting a session on workload consolidation on FlashStack infrastructure at Pure Storage’s annual //Accelerate user conference. I realize that consolidation isn’t the most exciting topic to discuss… ever since VMware became robust enough for true production deployment the consolidation of workloads has been commonplace. But there remain a HUGE number of workloads, even virtual workloads, that are running in silos or isolated islands of infrastructure. I believe there is very little reason for any workload not to be consolidated and that technology has evolved enough to make fully consolidated data centers a reality.
If you haven’t thought about it in a while, here are three new reasons to think again about consolidation — of every workload:
The least exciting change in consolidated data centers is also one of the most major – the dramatic improvement in scalability. Case and point: storage capacity and density. While spinning disk dominated the enterprise storage scene improvements in capacity and density were gradual. With all-flash storage we have entered a new era of storage where a Petabyte or more can fit in 3 rack units. And the price of all-flash storage is lower than ever, too.
What this means for data centers everywhere is that benefits of having more than one platform for storage are now dramatically outweighed by the benefits (of both purchase and administration) of having only a single data platform.
Recent work I did with ESG group on workload consolidation on Pure Storage focused on simulating an active 5000-employee company with virtual desktops, SQL server, Exchange, Sharepoint, etc. In our test scenarios, all these workloads performed flawlessly on a single array – and while the flawless operation was the point of our testing I was struck by how small a storage system was needed to operate this whole company. And storage is only getting better.
Nobody wants to manage a million different devices in the data center. Consolidation onto smaller numbers of physical or logical devices results in some simplicity gains… but how the workloads interact can add considerable complexity if not handled correctly. In the storage world we try to minimize the additive complexity of consolidation by providing a simple, easy interface for management and troubleshooting. Vendors like Pure Storage continue to set a high standard for usability.
A good example of a tool to support consolidated workloads is storage QoS. Any given workload on an array without QoS runs the risk of monopolizing array resources and interfering with the operation of other workloads. These “noisy neighbor” workloads have historically been handled using an extremely complicated group of QoS settings that needed regular readjustment. The result is a steep learning curve and a lot of wasted administration time.
With Purity always-on QoS a “noisy neighbor” workload is automatically dampened when array resources become scarce. There’s no direct management required and no settings to adjust. And, because it’s so simple and always-on, consolidated workloads just work – without fuss or tuning. This type of implementation, where key features are totally effortless to use, is the new standard for storage and other data center infrastructure.
Look, when you consolidate workloads you also consolidate risk. With all your workloads in one place, an outage has a major impact. In fact, the impact of an outage is directly proportional to the level of consolidation!
Mitigating this risk in most storage systems involves tiers of storage, each with its own backup policy, RAID configuration, etc. All these configurations take time and effort to set, maintain, and update. If you are managing every array as though it were 20 smaller arrays each with its own settings, you’re not making things easier and you’re probably going to see some confusion and downtime. Making things complicated on the inside doesn’t improve availability…
If you choose, your Pure Storage FlashArray will regularly “phones home” to Pure with telemetrics to help identify and resolve problems before you even see them (around 80% of all trouble tickets are opened by Pure before the array owners even notice anything). But the arrays also report their uptime. By analyzing this telemetric data, we were able to determine that the Pure Storage FlashArray has achieved 99.9999% availability (6 nines!) in real production environments. This includes not just unplanned downtime (something went wrong) but also planned downtime (virtually eliminated in the FlashArray). This is a system you can trust to run consolidated workloads and to STAY ONLINE so your workloads do, too.
So it’s never been a better time for workload consolidation, at least from a technological viewpoint. The technology has evolved to provide you the scalability, stability, and simplicity you need to make consolidation a reality. Seriously, take a look at those workloads you haven’t consolidated yet and ask yourself — why?
I hope you’ll join me in San Francisco on June 12th for the //Accelerate conference. I’d be really excited if you had some consolidation questions you’d like to ask me during my session! You can always reach me on Twitter if you want questions answered: @joelmckelvey