IT Knowledge Exchange hit the ground running for Storage Virtualization month, but it occurred to me: What about those who aren’t quite familiar with storage virtualization? So today I’m backing up a little and compiling some of the basics concerning the subject. For all of those storage virtualization pros out there, I welcome any corrections, addendums, and clarifications! Leave them in the comments section or send me an email at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.
What is storage virtualization?
Similar to server and desktop virtualization, storage virtualization is meant to simplify the job of the storage administrator. Rather than having to perform backup, archiving, and data recovery tasks across the SAN or other storage devices, virtualized storage disguises the complexity of those storage devices and allows management from a central console, which controls the virtual devices regardless of where they physically are or what hardware they’re on.
Cloud storage vs. virtualized storage
Since the definition of “cloud” can sometimes be a bit lacking of, well, definitives, even major companies sometimes confuse cloud computing with virtualization. Public cloud storage and storage virtualization are different in many ways, but fundamentally in who has the control. Store your data in the public cloud, and a company such as Amazon or Google has the physical servers. Storage virtualization utilizes the same hardware and storage devices already present in your data center, with a virtualized layer added to consolidate the management of your data and devices.
Benefits of storage virtualization
One of the main benefits storage virtualization is known for is the ability to more easily manage heterogeneous storage environments. In a traditional storage environment, most drives’ management software can’t handle drives from other vendors or even different models. Virtualized storage treats all drives equally and as one unit.
Another known benefit is storage configuration sans downtime. Data migrations are less disruptive, which is especially helpful in tiered storage environments. If frequently-accessed data on high-performance drives is separated from the less-accessed data on the slower, cheaper drives, the decision becomes: Take the performance hit from the slow drives, over-provision faster drives, or schedule downtime. With virtual drives, data is available to migrate to high performance drives as necessary.
As with any technology, there are complexities and factors that should be considered before implementing virtualized storage. Gartner research director Valdis Filks shared some of these factors with SearchStorage.com:
When people hear the words ‘storage virtualization,’ their expectations are they can do everything and anything from the virtualization layer, but they cannot. Storage virtualization does not replace device configuration and device management.
He recommends – as with any migration or upgrade – that companies consult professional services teams before beginning any storage virtualization project.
Some extra resources
- Check out the Storage Virtualization Study Guide from SearchStorageChannel.
- SearchStorageChannel outlines the benefits of storage virtualization in one of their Hot Spot Tutorials, and the five benefits of SAN-based storage virtualization.
- SearchStorage has a list of articles to bookmark if you’re researching the benefits and drawbacks of storage virtualization.
Leave your additions, corrections, or questions in the comments section or email me directly at Melanie@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.