What data storage virtualization looks like today

Last updated:January 2016

Editor's note

Today's storage virtualization looks very different than it used to.

Storage virtualization aggregates capacity in a given environment under a software layer, which allows capacity to be centrally managed and often provides additional storage features. Storage virtualization isn't new -- vendors such as DataCore with SANsymphony, IBM with its SAN Volume Controller (now rebranded as IBM Spectrum) and Hitachi Data Systems with its arrays have been aggregating capacity for years. But some analysts and IT professionals would argue that the types of data storage virtualization currently available do more than simply pool capacity.

Two examples are software-defined storage -- a technology based on storage virtualization, but that often gives storage other value-added features -- and hyper-converged storage. While the main allure of hyper-convergence is easy deployment and management because components are shipped preconfigured, data storage virtualization is at work inside many systems. A final example is vSphere Virtual Volumes, a young technology that allows administrators to reserve capacity with specified performance and a feature set to which virtual machines (VMs) can be automatically provisioned.

This guide offers an in-depth look at some of the newest types of storage virtualization and their benefits, and will help you to determine whether these technologies are right for your environment.

1The software-defined storage approach

From VMware VSAN to DataCore SANsymphony, many vendors offer what they label software-defined storage (SDS) products. The problem: The definition of software-defined storage isn't so cut and dry. What we do know is that most SDS products use software to pool capacity and to surface the underlying features of storage arrays. To many analysts, that's one of the most popular types of storage virtualization today.

2Hyper-converged infrastructure and virtualization

Hyper-converged systems package storage, compute, networking and virtualization in one box. Many IT professionals look at hyper-convergence as a way to ease deployment and management in their data centers. But hyper-converged systems are based on the same abstraction as storage virtualization -- the software is abstracted from the hardware to allow for the ease of management and provisioning that users enjoy.

3Virtual Volumes as a form of virtualization

Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) are a vSphere 6 feature many observers consider one of the newest types of data storage virtualization technology. VVOLs allow capacity to be aggregated into what can be thought of as containers to which VMs can be matched based on the amount of capacity and performance they need. By doing so, virtual volumes have created a much more efficient way to provision storage in virtual environments.