VM Density: The Key to Unlocking Higher Profits in the Cloud

Thursday, November 8, 2012 posted by Dave Wright

In our last two blog posts we have talked about the importance of a high performance storage architecture and fine grain quality of service controls in a multi-tenant cloud infrastructure. While mildly interesting individually, it is the unique combination of performance and control within a single platform that is powerful. How does this functionality translate into real value business value for a cloud service provider (CSP)? The answer is Virtual Machine (VM) density.

In traditional storage terms, density is a measure of the amount of capacity or IOPS packed into as small a footprint as possible (e.g. 1U). But thinking about density as purely a capacity or performance concept isn't useful for a service providers hosting production applications. In an environment that requires predictable performance, capacity density is a meaningless metric if your system lacks the performance (IOPS) necessary to access these volumes. The result is often a severely underutilized system to ensure the provisioned capacity has access to the performance it needs. Not exactly the most efficient approach.

Similarly, in a multi-tenant environment IOPS density alone is insufficient. Without any sort of control or governance over this bucket of performance there is no way for a cloud provider to guarantee performance to any of the applications running on that infrastructure. Consequently, customers can't entrust cloud providers with their performance sensitive applications.

For a service provider to properly monetize a dense IOPS footprint requires the ability to provision and guarantee those IOPS to each and every virtual machine. The virtual machine is smallest unit of consumption in a cloud infrastructure. For a cloud infrastructure hosting performance sensitive applications, recklessly packing virtual machines onto a platform without the ability to deliver predictable performance to each is a recipe for disaster. Likewise, forced under-provisioning of a storage system to ensure each VM gets the resource it needs is a recipe for going out of business.

The ability for a cloud service provider to deliver profits is directly related to their ability to confidently host the largest number of virtual machines in the smallest storage footprint possible. This is VM density. This is the key to unlocking higher profits from your cloud infrastructure. Unfortunately, you can't get there with storage systems available on the market today. Six days from now that all changes.

-Dave Wright, Founder & CEO