Today there is a great buzz around the benefits of virtualization. The term “virtualization” has taken on great marketing value. However, the term has disparate definitions - suppliers of network gear, desktops, operating systems, security, and outsourced services all have assigned the term very different meanings. Even within the storage industry, there are widely differing definitions as to what constitutes virtualization. Most storage solutions support virtualized storage over and above the basic concept of Logical Unit Numbers (LUNs) and centralized management of the arrays. No two storage virtualization solutions are exactly the same, with some being widely different from the others. There is, however, a common element: storage virtualization means adding an abstraction layer of software that hides the physical devices from the user and allows all devices to be managed as a single pool. This means data is represented differently from where it physically resides and it is managed as a logical unit. As the storage virtualization market matures, the definition will narrow into a commonly accepted set of functions. The common goal for everyone is to easily manage data across multiple platforms, solutions, and technologies and allow effective allocation and reallocation of resources with no planned or unplanned downtime.
Virtualization is gaining ground and one contributing factor to this rising demand is the virtualization of servers and PCs, which increases the amount of data that needs to be stored centrally. For example each server VM (virtualized OS and application stack) has a copy of the operating system, rather than sharing one copy of the OS across multiple applications on the same server. Storage virtualization enables more efficient utilization as all forms of storage (NAS, SAN and server-based disk) by collecting and managing them together as a single unit with no stranding of storage assets.
Virtualization is a complex process and needs to be thought completely through before implementation begins. A well disciplined IT organization should have formal plans in place for every major project.
All IT organizations are under great pressure to deliver more with less. While storage virtualization is relatively new, all of us have enough information to strongly recommend a set of best practices for organizations deploying this technology:
- Make a plan. Company management needs to understand the goals and objectives of deploying this new, additional layer of technology
- Formal training on the tools. Storage virtualization adds an additional layer of software that can either enhance the performance of the datacenter or add to its complexity. Formal training can ensure that these tools are successfully installed and performing as required
- Measure the results. In concert with the plan, organizations should measure the results of any new technologies implemented. . Only by understanding the real results of deploying new technologies, corrective actions can be taken or further investments be made to enhance the performance of the IT infrastructure
So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and evaluate your virtualization needs to remain ahead of the curve.