Storage virtualization essentials: Cut costs and increase storage efficiency

Storage virtualization can cut equipment costs and increase storage efficiency. We examine the pros and cons of storage virtualization architectures, storage virtualization products and how storage virtualization fits into disaster recovery plans.

Storage virtualization may not get as much attention as its server virtualization cousin, but it's a proven technology to lower equipment costs and solve heterogeneous storage infrastructure issues.

And while the reviews have been good, so far storage virtualization hasn't exactly been a box-office smash. It's more akin to that old TV commercial where the kids don't want to try some healthy-looking cereal so they get the little brother to try it. Then when he empties his bowl, they want some, too.

You probably have a friend at another company or met a data storage manager at a conference who's told you all about their storage virtualization implementation trials and tribulations. Don't let those tales of woe deter you. Think of storage virtualization as that kid with the bowl of cereal: They tried it, they probably like it now and you can learn a lot from their experiences.

Storage virtualization essentials: Cutting costs and increasing storage efficiency (PDF)

Then, of course, there's the classic conundrum of where to put virtualization: hosts, network or arrays. All three options have their appealing and not-so-appealing features, so it can be hard to weigh them on their technical merits alone. But the choices narrow when you assess your data storage infrastructure and requirements; in most cases, only one of the options will be anything close to viable when you consider your currently installed equipment, budget and operational environment.

But wait, there's more, you say. The dreaded vendor lock-in looms over storage virtualization as ominously as any of the other deterrents. I think that hazard is inflated, too. How many storage shops don't already enjoy a tight relationship with a select vendor or two? It happens because it works and benefits both sides. Storage is a long-term affair; you buy an array and it sits on your shop floor for three, four, five years or longer. It's the same with storage virtualization; three or four years from now, virtualization will be such an automatic feature that you won't even remember feeling locked in way back in 2010.

It's not easy to decide where storage virtualization should reside, and implementation's no snap either. It'll take some work and an investment in time and money. But there may never be a better time than now, when efficiency is the byword and you're trying to wring every last drop out of your installed enterprise data storage capacity.


--Rich Castagna, Editorial Director of the Storage Media Group


  • Update your storage system with server virtualization: A lot of enterprise data storage managers are put off by the overwhelming hoopla that's been generated by VMware Inc. and server virtualization. That's because storage intellectuals feel that it's unfair for server virtualization to get all of this attention considering application and implementation models have been seen in the storage market for years. However, server virtualization and consolidation efforts might actually push storage virtualization efforts into the limelight.


  • Pros and cons of three architectures: Storage virtualization can reside in the fabric switch, in an appliance or in the array's controller. Because each approach has its pros and cons, the location of where virtualization should occur is hotly debated.


  • Buying guide and vendor comparison: Most consolidation initiatives now include storage virtualization. But before deciding on a storage virtualization vendor, there are some purchasing criteria considerations to take, including interoperability with your current storage infrastructure, how scalable the virtualization layer is, how your storage systems will process the change and more.


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