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What are VMware VVOLs and how do they work?

VMware's new Virtual Volumes allow virtual machines and applications to be better allocated to storage. The feature is now available in beta.

What are VMware Virtual Volumes and how do they work?

Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) are something new that VMware is working on to improve storage provisioning. Storage currently tends to be provisioned according to a gold, silver and bronze type of model that forces a virtualization administrator to pick the storage tier that most closely matches their needs.

VMware VVOLs are an attempt to solve this problem by more closely matching the requirements of a virtual machine (VM) to the underlying storage. In other words, storage can be provisioned dynamically according to the needs of the VM. VVOL creation can even be tied to application provisioning. This is a much more granular model than what we have today.

To use VVOLs, the storage hardware has to support the vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA). VASA will then allow a dialog to occur between the storage hardware and storage consumer. VMware will send a "Here's what I need" request to the storage hardware, which will either accommodate the request or respond with a "Your request can't be accommodated, but here is what I can give you" type of message.

You can think of VMware VVOLs as storage containers that align with individual VMs. The container includes a data store, a set of data services, and metadata.

There are a number of different storage providers that will support VVOLs such as EMC, Hewlett-Packard, NetApp, Nimble and SolidFire.

VMware has recently launched a public beta for its VVOLs program.

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This was first published in July 2014

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