Virtual machine technology has rapidly expanded since being introduced a few short years ago. Now virtual servers are launched and perform many different types of tasks, and have moved over to take an important role in storage. Virtual machines are now proliferating to become part of the desktop environment—and it appears that PCs will soon be replaced by ultra-thin clients (aka zero clients) that simply act as interfaces for virtual machines.
It appears that our not so distant future will be ensconced completely in the cloud—and nearly all of our computing actions will be virtual. Technologies continue to be evolved to make this possible; the one thing that users, IT staff and corporate executives will not sacrifice is speed of access to data and rapidity of processing. Hence, anything which gets in the way of such performance must be firmly addressed.
As an ever-increasing amount of our computing becomes virtual, the speed of interaction between hardware hosts and virtual machines becomes more critical. Coordination of virtual machines also becomes vital—especially as the quantity of these increases.
Speed of access is dependent upon a basic computer operation: I/O reads and writes. In fact, that level is so important it can actually have a considerable impact on the entire environment. Many additional I/Os can be required for reads and writes when files are in a state of fragmentation. Originally developed for better utilization of hard drive space, fragmentation causes files to be split into tens or hundreds of thousands of pieces (fragments). Because of the additional I/Os required to read and write fragmented files, performance is seriously slowed down and I/O bandwidth bottlenecks occur frequently.
Within a virtual environment, an I/O request must pass through multiple layers. Because of this, fragmentation has even more of a profound impact in a virtual environment than it does in a strictly hardware platform. Left alone, it can even lead to an inability to launch and run more virtual machines.
Due to the complexity of virtual environments, a simple defragmentation solution won’t properly address the situation. In addition to fragmentation itself, I/Os must be prioritized so that shared I/O resources can be properly coordinated. Fragmentation in virtual environments also causes virtual disk “bloat”, in which virtual disks are set to dynamically grow but don’t then shrink when users or applications remove data.
State of the art virtual platform disk optimization technology addresses all of these issues. A majority of fragmentation is actually prevented before it occurs. Virtual machine resources are fully coordinated, and wasted virtual disk space is eliminated with a compaction feature.
As our computing world continues to become increasingly virtual and move into the cloud, keep that world turning with competent optimization.