I have been dragged kicking and screaming into the virtualised cloud; along with my co-workers, I have been moved from my nice, safe local Exchange server.
It sounds scary but my IT department told me cloud email was a great thing that promised unlimited email storage and an end to the days of disturbing emails arriving that informed me I was approaching my storage limit.
With cloud email, I can keep everything forever, although I am not sure saving mountains of emails even in electronic form will be a good thing.
Better still, there was actually very little dragging, or kicking and screaming involved. Other than having to redirect my tablet and smartphone to the new service, update my webmail bookmark and empty my email inbox, there was not much I had to do. And ever since I made the move, I have not experienced any problems or performance issues.
A key reason for this is flash storage. Yes, virtualisation is a great tool for improving physical server utilisation and flexibility, as well as reducing power, cooling and datacentre footprint costs. That is why virtualisation for email, databases and desktops is rapidly becoming more popular.
But virtualised servers are only as effective as the storage performance that supports them. If, as a datacentre manager, your clients cannot access their application data quickly or boot their virtual desktop in a reasonable time, productivity and client satisfaction can drop.
Customer applications most likely run on virtualised servers, boosting server utilisation and running more applications on fewer physical servers.
This can reduce power consumption, reduce the need for datacentre floor space, and make it easier to configure servers and deploy applications.
The cloud also helps streamline application development, allowing companies to more efficiently and cost effectively test software applications across a broad set of configurations and operating systems.
Once application testing is complete, a virtual server's configuration and image can be put on a virtual "shelf" until they are needed again, freeing up memory, processing, storage and other resources on the physical server for new virtual servers with just a few keystrokes. But there can be downsides, like slow performance - especially when it comes to storage performance.
When a number of virtual servers are all using the same physical storage, there can be a squabble for storage capacity, generally known as storage contention. These internecine battles can slow application response to a glacial pace and lead to VDI boot problems and login storms - the crush of users booting up or logging in within a small window that overwhelms the server with data requests and degrades response times.
Flash can help reduce such storage bottlenecks. New flash offerings are being deployed to help improve virtualised storage performance.
Flash can be used as primary storage inside servers running virtual machines to speed up storage response times. It can also be deployed as an intelligent cache for DAS- or SAN-connected storage and even as an external shared storage pool.
It is clear that virtualisation requires higher storage performance and better, more cost-effective ways to deploy flash storage. But how much flash is needed depends on the particular virtualisation challenge, configuration and, of course, budget.
While flash storage is fast, it is more expensive than disk storage. Choosing the right storage acceleration offering can be as important as choosing the right cloud provider for the company's email.
Flash offerings can help make mail accessible around the clock, whether users access it from their PCs, tablets or smartphones. The idea is that this can help boost their productivity - and the speed of receipt of messages or alerts.
The only real challenge that users face will be to improve their own responses to emailed requests.
Rob Callaghan is accelerated solutions product and outbound marketing manager at LSI
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