This week I presented at the German VMUG and a day after the event someone commented on my session. Well not really on my session, but more on my title. My title was “Goodbye SAN Huggers“. Mildly provocative indeed. “SAN Huggers” is a play on the term “Server Hugger“. That term has been around for the longest time and refers to people who prefer to be able to point out their servers. People who prefer the physical world, where every application ran on one server and every server was equal to one physical box.
SAN Huggers are pretty much the same type of people. They prefer the physical world. A world where they define RAID Groups, Storage Pools and LUNs. A world where a bunch of servers end up on the LUN they created. Those LUNs have certain data services enabled and if you need other data services, well then you simply move your servers around! SAN Huggers like to maintain strict control, and to me personally they are in the same position the Server Huggers were 12-15 years ago. It is time to let go however!
Now let it be clear, 12-15 years ago when virtualization changed the world of IT and VMware exploded literally and server huggers felt threatened by the rise of virtualization servers did not go away. Server Administrators did not disappear. Server Administrators evolved. Many took on additional responsibilities, in most cases that would be the responsibility over VMware ESX / Virtual Infrastructure. The same applies to storage.
When I say goodbye SAN Huggers, I am not referring to “Virtual SAN” taking over the world. (Although I do think that Hyper-Converged will eat the traditional storage system’s lunch for a large portion.) I am talking about how the world of storage is (and has been) evolving. Literally my next slide typically has a quote on it that states the following: “Hardware evolution started the storage revolution“. The story around this slide makes it clear what I mean when I say Goodbye SAN Huggers.
The hardware evolution has literally changed the storage landscape. Software Defined Storage is quickly taking over the world, but in my opinion the key reason for this is the evolution from a hardware perspective. In the past we had to group harddisk to provide a single unit that could deliver sufficient capacity, performance and increase availability at the same time. That was achieved using RAID constructs, and with the introduction of virtualization and high demanding workloads storage systems had to resort to wide striping, introduced larger caches, disk pools etc to deliver the capabilities required.
In todays world a lot of these constructs are no longer needed. The evolution in the world of hardware allowed for the introduction of Software Defined Storage. First and foremost flash, whether PCIe, NVMe or SAS/SATA based. These devices removed the need for complex constructs to provide thousands of IOPS. A single flash device today, even consumer grade, can provide higher performance than many of the storage systems we have all managed over the years. Not even talking about enterprise grade flash devices where 100k IOPS (with sub millisecond latency) is more or less the norm. Than there is the network, 10GbE, 25GbeE, 40GbE and even higher. Low latency and high bandwidth comes at (relative) low cost, and add to that the ever growing CPU capabilities, cores and speed combined with faster bus speeds and high (and fast) memory configurations. Hardware is no longer a constraint, the revolution is now, enter the world of Software Defined Storage.
And this, this is where I typically introduce: Virtual SAN, Virtual Volumes and the vSphere APIs for IO Filtering (vSphere Data Services delivered through filter drivers). Functionality provided by VMware which enables efficient operations, simplicity and flexibility. All through the use of policy, which can simply be attached to your workloads, be it a virtual machine or virtual disk even. The days of creating LUNs, RAID groups and needing wide striping or huge amounts of devices to get a decent user experience are gone. We can say goodbye to the physical world, we can say goodbye to the SAN Hugger. We can move forward and evolve, not just our datacenters but also our personal growth and areas of interest and expertise as a result.