Storage Bin 2.0: Virtually changing everything

Server virtualization drives storage growth and dramatically drives the proliferation of storage networking. This is enabling the re-invention of how we manage, protect, store and access information.

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Anyone who doubts the power and impact of virtualization isn't seeing the whole picture.


Back in 2000, I had a heated debate with a co-worker who was convinced the Internet didn't bring any real value to anyone. I was reminded of this when I recently heard from an industry expert who said server virtualization is a "one-time step function." He believes "the market forces haven't changed" and that "consolidation of servers happens one time and then it's done. Within two years, the IT shop once again has hundreds of server boxes and the effect of consolidation is all gone."

I disagree to such a degree it makes me dizzy. IT infrastructure market forces have changed in nearly every way because of virtual machines (VMs). At VMworld, I was blown away by the momentum and possibilities. Few things are this important and the impact is just beginning to escalate.

Server virtualization is a new approach to implementing infrastructure that's far more efficient then ever before. One of the big flaws in the argument made by the industry expert I quote above is that it leaves out the significant increase in CPU processing power, which enables you to add more VMs instead of physical servers. For example, the virtual to physical ratio could be 20:1 today and 100:1 tomorrow. And VMs aren't just for consolidation; they're for better management of the infrastructure. The process of upgrading to new physical servers is a major advantage. Bringing servers online quickly for new apps is extremely valuable. The ability to perform bare-metal restores efficiently and cost effectively is critical.

So why am I talking about server virtualization in Storage Bin? It drives storage growth and the proliferation of storage networking. ESG recently researched the specific impact server virtualization has on storage networking. We surveyed 706 companies across different industries, countries and segment sizes. We found that 52% of respondents had implemented storage virtualization and 48% plan to within the next 24 months. That's 100%.

Some interesting information came out of our research. For example, when users move to a virtual server world, 60% will begin with networked storage vs. DAS; 18 months later that percentage jumps to 74%. Why? Because the mobility of VMs is a primary driver to move to the virtual world--having the storage externally networked is the only way to take advantage of that. Seventy-one percent of those folks will buy new storage systems, and most (56%) will buy more storage than they started with.

Server and desktop virtualization will have a major impact on storage and storage networking. As the server side of the data center becomes more virtualized, the storage side will be required to follow suit. Additionally, this will drive the re-invention of how we manage, protect, store and access information.

Imagine a fully virtualized data center that isn't tethered to the physical infrastructure, but rather floats above, drawing resources as needed. Need more CPU or capacity? Add it to the pool. In a highly virtualized data center where physical locality is unimportant, these resources can be anywhere because it's all logically at your fingertips. Sounds too good to be true? On the server side, it's happening. But the storage and data management side still has a big mountain to climb. Rest assured that this is where it's going and, step by step, it will soon be more than just a vision.

This was first published in November 2007

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