The State of Storage and the Rise of Tintri

The State of Storage and the Rise of Tintri

January 25, 2018 0

Tintri began with the goal of solving the most challenging problem facing virtualization at the time, which was storage. Traditional storage was not designed to handle the dynamic needs of virtualization. Storage was costly from both a CAPEX and OPEX point of view, diminishing the cost benefits of virtualization. It was also a major source of performance issues which caused virtualization projects to fail.

The idea of the Tintri VMstore was about storage designed specifically for enterprise, virtualized environments. Back in 2008, flash storage was still expensive compared to spinning disks, so Tintri started out building hybrid flash/disk arrays. As SSD costs decreased over time, all-flash VMstore arrays (AFAs) were added to the product line.

The file system was built specifically for storing VMs. More specifically, the storage had the intelligence to determine exactly what was going on for every VM. The file system knows which VM and virtual disk each IO belongs to, the latency of each IO, and the working set size of the workload on each virtual disk at any point in time. This allows the file system to provide performance isolation & Quality of Service (QoS), visibility/stats, data management (snapshots, clones) and automation at the VM level.

On top of these building blocks, Tintri built solutions for data protection and disaster recovery (DR). These include scheduled VM-granular snapshots and replication, VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) integration, time-travel VM restores (SyncVM), and file-level restore.

Virtualization deployments vary in scale from less than a hundred VMs to tens of thousands of VMs or more. It was clear that Tintri not only had to solve the data storage problem, but it also needed to tackle the challenge of managing VMs and storage at scale, from a few VMstores to hundreds of VMstores (in large test-dev environments, for example).

As traditional virtualization matured, enterprises started evolving from virtualization to private cloud to increase their agility and speed of deployment. Private cloud is built upon composable, software-driven services. With Tintri’s storage being API-driven from the start, and workflow automation-focused, its VMstore architecture was already synergistic with this growing trend, and the ecosystem integrations and supported use cases were expanded. For example, leveraging its APIs, QoS and protection policies can be configured on its storage platform at the VM granularity.

Having built a wealth of statistics about each virtual machine, Tintri saw the opportunity to use this information to solve the challenging problem of purchase planning and sizing for the dynamic workload, and unpredictable demands of private cloud. With solving that problem in mind, the company built its Tintri Analytics solution.

A Data Management Platform for the Data Center

Purpose-built for VMs and focused specifically on the problems of VM storage, Tintri VMstore provides management at the same level as the rest of the virtual infrastructure.

Tintri incorporates advances in flash technology, file system architecture, and user interface design to make storage for virtual applications uncomplicated and efficient. Tintri VMstore is designed from the ground up by experts in both virtualization and storage.

Tintri VMstore is managed in terms of VMs and virtual disks, not LUNs or volumes. The Tintri OS is built from scratch to meet the demands of a VM environment, and to provide features relevant to VMs. It is designed to use flash efficiently and reliably, while leveraging key technologies like deduplication, compression and automatic data placement to deliver 99% of all IO operations from flash.

These innovations shift the focus from managing storage as a separately configured component to managing VMs as a standalone entity. This paradigm overcomes the performance, management, and cost obstacles that prevent virtualization of more of the computing infrastructure. Tintri’s sharp focus on creating a better storage system for VMs enables the creation of a fundamentally new type of product.

The way Tintri focuses on VMs is most apparent in the VMstore management interface, which presents VMs as the basic units of management, rather than LUNs, volumes, or files. Every object in the interface is familiar to VM administrators. The interface is straightforward enough for VM administrators to manage storage directly, yet sophisticated enough for storage administrators to leverage their expertise in managing storage for large numbers of VMs.

Building a VM-focused management interface involves far more than just a helpful and attractive graphical user interface (GUI), however. The underlying storage system natively understands and supports storage management operations such as performance and capacity monitoring, snapshots, quality of service (QoS) management, and replication at the VM level.

Focusing exclusively on VMs enables Tintri to eliminate the levels of mapping and complexity required by general-purpose storage systems. Decision-making is delegated to lower levels of the system, which allows higher levels of automation and optimization than is possible for general-purpose storage systems. The result is an agile architecture with much simpler abstractions and interfaces. This in turn facilitates further automation and optimization.