The benefits of storage virtualization are becoming clearer by the day as more and more enterprises find that virtualization in general is only truly effective if applied to the data center as a whole.
The more accurate term, of course, is storage networking virtualization, but the idea is the same: to improve the ability to move data into and out of storage resources so it can more accurately meet the demands of increasingly virtualized server and desktop infrastructures.
A new report from the Aberdeen Group highlights some of the benefits that come with storage virtualization. In a survey of more than 180 organizations worldwide, it found that improved SAN management and decreased complexity in overall storage networking were among the top advantages to going virtual. It also greatly increased the ability to deploy virtualization elsewhere in the enterprise and to foster even more ambitious goals, such as network convergence.
According to Renny Shen, product marketing manager at F5's Data Solutions group, the key element in storage virtualization is the way it severs the traditional relationship between applications and storage devices, just as server virtualization separates apps from servers. This essentially leaves all available storage at the user's disposal because it appears to the application to be one giant storage device. So at a time when storage needs are increasing exponentially, storage virtualization ushers in the much-needed practice of pooled network storage.
It's important to remember, though, that storage virtualization is not the ultimate panacea to all your storage woes. As CTO Edge's Mike Vizard points out, increasing numbers of ever-large virtual machines can quickly overwhelm available resources. After all, virtualization does not increase storage capacity, it merely provides more flexible access to what is already available. So it is still crucial to deploy data-management solutions like defragmentation and deduplication to ensure resources are there when you need them.
And then there is the fact that storage virtualization comes in different flavors, meaning you'll have to do some research to determine the approach that's best for your legacy infrastructure and your goals. A good place to start is Rich Vanover's overview on Datamation. Rich is the IT infrastructure manager for Alliance Data in Columbus, Ohio, and he runs through the various flavors quickly and with clear-cut diagrams. His overall take is that storage virtualization is not reserved for the very large. Smaller and mid-sized organizations can benefit as well.
The need for storage virtualization is testament to the fact that the old silo approach to data infrastructure truly does not work in the virtual era. Going forward, changes to one set of resources, like servers, will greatly affect others. To keep everything in balance, virtualization needs to be spread evenly throughout the entire organization or else greater efficiencies on one side will lead to bottlenecks on the other.