Storage virtualization is a hot-button issue, and one that has gained a fair amount of importance in the IT industry. Storage virtualization differs from physical storage as it combines different storage devices, effectively allowing it to be managed via one administrative console. There are numerous reasons why it has left such a mark on the enterprise scene, primarily the decrease in management burdens associated with storage. Moreover, the higher utilization of power sources facilitates easy datacenter backups, migrations, and disaster recovery. Lower cost and power consumption is also a bonus. These benefits have been praised by businesses for helping them keep up with the demands on their IT teams.
Moving a specific application from a virtual machine, location, and physical system to a different one, or even spanning them across numerous datacenters, allows businesses to control their applications better.
Unchanging nature of Storage
Storage virtualization, while responsible for large-scale disruption, does improve storage and server infrastructure. But the storage infrastructure has remained the same for more than a decade. The traditional storage infrastructure was never meant to accommodate modern application processes. During the time of development of these storage concepts, evolving threats to security as well as the impact of storage virtualization were not considered. This means when a business needs to remain agile, the teams tasked with administering security and storage have to resort to an infrastructure that is too brittle and rigid to keep pace with the more agile storage and compute counterparts. This results in IT teams having to slow down the process of offering security and storage services to applications due to the constraints of an inflexible physical storage topology.
What this means for security?
Such complex and rigid storage infrastructures may provide tough security controls to datacenters, but this is limited only to the exterior. Inside, they remain extremely vulnerable and open. This is partly the reason why so many data breaches have occurred, with attackers infecting multiple systems across the datacenter. In case of a hardware-defined storage infrastructure, the associated rigidity and complexity leave no room for more thorough security measures. So, when threats like malware and ransomware infect a particular system in the datacenter, it can easily move to other parts of the storage due to the lack of security.
Impact on business
Businesses find it difficult to make changes such as moving a virtual machine or an application owing to the associated storage and security changes that need to be made in order to properly accommodate it. This means IT companies have a hard decision to make — either delay or avoid the changes that are essential to business operations, or make the changes that leaves holes in the existing security. Due to the rising demand on businesses to remain agile, this kind of hesitation to undergo change may lead to the downfall of the business.
So, what’s the solution?
Two words – storage virtualization.
The issues mentioned before are recognized widely, and the current trend is to implement storage “smarts” within the software itself. The final expression of this involves leaving physical storage, such as data banks, hard drives, and removable drives, alone, while abstracting the logical storage space within the server. The advantages of this become obvious quite soon, in the form of a more agile storage system that perfectly addresses the core problems affecting IT organizations. At the same time, it equips them with a foundation that is capable of opening up an entirely new set of possibilities. Every company wants a way to let their IT teams virtualize not just individual applications or servers but storage as a whole, including all the associated settings and security. Storage virtualization makes it all possible.
Storage virtualization makes it deceptively simple to allocate space. You gain the ability to affect more systems, and you are free to do whatever you want. Earlier, you did not have this kind of power, but now you do. However, a close eye must be kept on both the storage and performance of every app in the enterprise. For example, an IT professional might find lots of empty space and try to fill it up. But the problem is, overusing a storage results in decreased performance if the storage has been allocated to some I/O sensitive application or database. The trick is to ensure you size it all correctly and understand just how much horsepower is required.
These concerns become all the more justified when dealing with thin provisioning, which is a component of virtualization technology that allows IT admins to present apps with greater storage capacity than what has already been physically allocated. This does away with the problem of over-provisioning of storage, where storage capacity becomes pre-allocated to apps but never used. Thin provisioning, on the other hand, makes more than 100 percent of the storage capacity allocable to applications without consuming the entire space at once.
How does it stack up against server virtualization?
There is some confusion regarding the need for storage virtualization when server virtualization is already being done. While it is true that you won’t get as much flexibility as IT shops that virtualize both storage and servers, you can get more benefits just by virtualizing storage. Without virtual servers, your business stands to gain enhanced disaster recovery and data migration abilities. Moreover, storage virtualization by itself is capable of offering thin provisioning, along with the simplified management structure that comes with combining storage devices and maintaining them from a central console.
Putting it all together
Organizations should not give a second thought to storage virtualization. All they need to know is that it’s important and here to stay. After all, why wouldn’t somebody want to manage different storage devices using a single console, and gain data mobility for easy and quick disaster recovery? Storage virtualization is a wake-up call for many as it proves that there are some technologies that are better and smarter than people who put in manual labor. As a rule, the more complicated your storage environment is, the greater the benefits you can avail from storage virtualization.
Photo credit: Flickr / Todd Lappin