Stephen Spellicy, vice president of marketing at Virtensys (, says:

Traditional data center managers and IT admins take a conservative approach related to managing/provisioning I/O connectivity to rack mount based servers, typically installing multiple network interfaces cards (NICs) and storage host bus adapters (HBAs), with redundant cables/switches. This causes a burden on IT’s ability to agile/responsive to their business needs, as the setup/teardown of these environment are both time consuming and costly.

In fact, server administrators make choices everyday on how I/O connectivity is assigned and dedicated to the servers they deploy. These choices are often based on “business as usual” behavior or process – rather than what’s best for the organization. Every time an I/O adapter is inserted within a server it’s made “captive”, essentially trapped within that particular server. This makes inefficient use of a critical/valuable resource that could be used by other servers with their data center.

In addition, the physical complexity of the traditional approach limits operational scale and IT agility. For instance, having to allocate a cable per connection, each to a dedicated network interface, not only consumes resources but also consumes a vast amount of time. It also causes headaches when trying to isolate issues — troubleshooting a connectivity problem becomes a virtual nightmare.

Data center managers and IT admins can greatly improve the time to deploy and managing the task of provisioning I/O connectivity to servers. This can be done centrally within the Virtensys management console, providing an easy to use/manage experience that allows them to add I/O on demand, when they require it.

Virtensys’ approach leverages something called I/O Virtualization (IOV), which means that servers leverage virtual instances of traditional “off the shelf” NICs (network interface cards) and HBAs (host bus adapters). To the server, these virtualized I/O adapters appear and operate as if they were a locally installed physical I/O adapter but in reality it’s a virtualized in hardware and software. Because Virtensys’ approach consolidates traditional I/O adapters (specifically Intel’s 10 GbE NIC and Qlogic’s FC HBAs), it can drive up the resource utilization and make more efficient use of this traditional costly resource.

Using a Virtensys’ VIO-4000 Series IOV appliance, server administrators can “free” the “captive” and valuable I/O resources from single servers and make them available through the I/O Virtualization appliance to multiple servers within the data center. Not only does this make sense from a resource utilization perspective, but it also solves serious problems associated with network cabling and I/O configuration complexity for both network and storage connectivity. Ultimately, I/O Virtualization reduces the physical complexity, enabling server administrators to reduce “physical layer” guesswork when troubleshooting connectivity issues.

Virtensys’s approach allows IT admins to deploy a solution to solve a serious problem by greatly improving their server I/O utilization and maximizing the value from their existing network/storage related investments. The I/O Virtualization appliance improves utilization of the critical I/O resource, can be configured to guarantee the Quality of Service (QoS) per server/per port, and can be applied to fine tune how those resources will be used.

Overall priority in the data center.

Virtensys’ technology covers a fundamental need within the data center – connectivity to storage and network resources. The Virtensys VIO-4000 Series IOV appliance allows standard rack mount based servers to access a variety of network/storage resources used in today’s data center. As far as rank, if IT organizations continue to grow their server environments (as they have been with the advent of server virtualization and new storage product adoption), for both physical and virtual data centers, their resource needs don’t go away, rather only increase. The core value of the product is to simplify the I/O provisioning process, so any IT organization seeking improvements in process and looking to become more agile in their operation should consider this improving this layer of infrastructure management in the data center. Virtensys’ value proposition enables IT to address operational challenges and reduce capital expense related to network and storage related peripherals.

The biggest challenges for data center and IT managers.

IOV is a relatively new technology approach within the data center. Naturally, the biggest challenge to adopting to IOV technology is IT’s reliance on the “business as usual” approach. If IT adminis are looking control OPEX (operation expense), reduce CAPEX (capital expense), and remain competitive, then they need to be open to a new way of performing this critical task. With all technology adoption, stability is a key, disruptive technologies, like IOV, change the way people approach a traditional task. By adopting a new technology or approach, it shouldn’t impact the stability of the environment or require vast changes. Within the Virtensys VIO-4000 Series architecture, a key component of the design is to leverage PCIe (PCI Express) sharing, which is the technology mechanism for how servers access virtualized I/O resources.

PCIe is a universally adopted and accepted server technology, it’s native/natural to the server and is well known/understood by every server admin today. By design, Virtensys enables investment protection through PCIe sharing. It leverages standard PCIe based I/O adapters and makes full use of the “standard” software drivers already within the operating system. This means there is no need for additional or special server-side software, rather servers merely connect to the appliance, access their virtualized instances of the standard I/O adapters they would normally have to dedicated in each hosts. Virtensys’ VIO-4000 Series IOV appliance can be implemented in a non-disruptive manner. It allows the server admin to greatly reducing the number of interactions, from the initial installation to the on-going maintenance/provisioning of I/O to connected servers.

Overcoming the challenges.

In today’s competitive IT marketplace, more CIOs now than ever are seeking such ways to lower their total cost of ownership (TCO). I/O virtualization enables real savings for IT departments. In some cases, a return on investment (ROI) analysis or proof of concept (POC) has been useful to demonstrate such value. This approach will typically help those data center managers and IT admins seeking justify implementing technology such as IOV. For those IT admins who have already chosen to deploy Virtensys’ technology, they have been able to realize an immediate and clear ROI. Typically, Virtensys will engage in a proof of concept (POC) with customers to demonstrate that the technology works within their environment and provides the value that it claims.Once Virtensys’s VIO-400 Series IOV appliance is deployed, a lower TCO can be realized by reducing the number of I/O adapters per server (4:1 from a server perspective, 8:1 from an appliance to switching layer perspective). Savings come from deploying fewer I/O adapters, less cabling and less power to the servers and fewer access layer switch ports.

Advice for data center and IT managers.

The best advice to those seeking solutions to solve I/O management issues is to do the research of the various approaches to solving the problem that Virtensys’ VIO-4000 Series IOV appliance is addressing. Look carefully at the implementation choices/challenges of the various technology options. Factors to consider are installation, operating systems support and ISV certification/validation. Virtensys leverages and presents native 10 GbE and Fibre Channel connectivity, this means that it isn’t advocating using new protocols to encapsulate or change how the server hosts communicates with external network or storage resource. At core, Virtensys is improving the physical layer I/O management, which achieved through I/O consolidation. Virtensys’ approach doesn’t alter or change the underlying network/storage protocol. Also, be careful to evaluate the impact to the server, related to adding new/different adapters or network switches, and any special purpose software that might need to be installed on the host itself.

Virtensys’ award-winning VIO-4000 Series IOV appliances are changing the way IT managers manage and deploy I/O resources to standard rackmount-based servers, enabling a more agile, scalable and dynamic data center. Built upon Virtensys’ patented PCIe sharing technology, the VIO-4000 Series consolidates, virtualizes and shares traditional I/O connectivity for both physical and virtualized server environments. Server administrators can now simply “wire-once” and then remotely manage and provision their I/O resources as needed.

For an in-depth explanation of how IOV works and specifically how Virtensys’ VIO-4000 Series IOV appliance can be leveraged in the data center, please take a look at this video tutorial: