Storage virtualization is the process of pooling the physical storage that is available from multiple devices into what is a single device for storage. The multiple devices are managed from a central console, which then allows each device to act like one. It is a technology which relies on software to identify what is available for capacity, then offer it as a pool of storage that can be used by virtual machines in virtual environments.
There are two basic types of storage virtualization available: block-based storage and file-based storage. The latter is the one which is most often used for virtual storage systems, as they abstract the logical storage from the physical memory blocks. This allows the capacity of the memory space to be pooled into a shared resource.
File-based storage virtualization is typically used for specific needs and applied to network-attached storage systems.
Here are key advantages and disadvantages of storage virtualization to consider with this technology.
List of the Advantages of Storage Virtualization
1. It allows for migrations to be performed quickly.
Appliance-based storage virtualization works on a scale where software mirroring is common. That makes the migration of data faster because there are fewer barriers to movement present. This process will also reduce the amount of downtime that is experienced, and in some cases, completely eliminate it when moving data to the apps that are using the storage.
2. It creates better workflows.
If you were using multiple arrays for data storage, then you’d need to have someone managing them to maintain the viability of the data storage. With storage virtualization, everything can be accomplished from a central console. Instead of having several people operating the system, it can feasibly be done with only one person at the helm. For agencies using enterprise-level storage devices, the cost-savings from labor alone makes storage virtualization a tremendous asset.
3. It allows more than one type of storage array.
When using virtual storage, it is possible to assign more than one type of array to your SAN (Storage Area Network). Even though the storage types are different, to the servers, they will look the same. That makes it easier to manage your overall storage needs from a central location because everything becomes more manageable.
4. It is a cheaper option for storage.
Storage virtualization reduces the amount of hardware that is necessary to achieve a needed storage capacity. That makes it easier and cheaper for the required infrastructure to be installed. It’s like having three computers with 1 TB of storage each. Instead of managing each computer independently and bumping into the physical storage cap, virtualization allows you to use that 3 TB of total storage as if it were a singular item of physical storage. That reduces the number of on-site resources which are required and even opens up the possibility of Cloud-based systems for small businesses.
5. It allows for the costs to become more predictable.
Instead of dealing with capital investments for multiple hardware components and the software to access them, you’re working with an environment that can be managed remotely. For the small business, storage virtualization can even be controlled by third-party providers without a threat to their security. Some services are so cheap, in fact, that companies can have their data managed as if it was stored locally for less than $3 per month.
6. It provides better access to your data.
How many times have you dealt with a computer going down at work? When that terminal stops functioning, then the employee behind that terminal becomes unproductive. Until you restore data access to that terminal, you’re experiencing downtime. With storage virtualization, your managing all of your resources centrally instead, either with an on-site installation or through the Cloud. That means the employee can move to a new terminal and stay productive because you’re not losing the overall access to the data you have.
7. It allows anyone to create business opportunities for themselves.
In the past, entrepreneurs were required to have a lot of capital available to start a business. You’d need your own servers, computing resources, and software to get work done. If you wanted to telecommute, you’d need to log into a terminal station. Thanks to storage virtualization, anyone can access the ability to work on whatever scale they wish to earn an income for themselves. Because the data no longer needs to be stored locally, there is no longer a need to build local infrastructures.
List of the Disadvantages of Storage Virtualization
1. It requires you to deal with multiple vendors.
From a technology standpoint, storage has always been a market that’s been adverse to risk. People don’t want to take chances with the information they need to store. That means they don’t want the data to be lost. That led to complete storage systems being developed by vendors to help people meet their storage needs. With storage virtualization, most consumers purchase their software from one vendor and their storage needs from another. If a problem occurs, you must troubleshoot with both organizations instead of one.
2. It can make upgrades challenging to process.
Storage virtualization can be disadvantageous when there is a need to upgrade the software on the node which is controlling the storage options. Although must upgrades happen without a hitch, there is the possibility that the failover node will hang for some reason if the update fails. That would lead to problems with the applications that were using the storage provisioned for them at the time.
3. It does not always scale to some areas.
Storage virtualization will usually scale as it should, but it comes with a risk that it will not. In some areas, it may not scale properly, like offering the number of virtual disks that were allocated to the system. There are hard limits in place with this technology, so as you continue to grow and add more servers, you may find that you’ll start running out of storage room. Even with workarounds in place, you’ll bump into issues that are similar to physical storage limits, given enough time.
4. It still has limitations which must be considered.
Different apps and servers will respond in unique ways within a storage virtualization environment. In some situations, a hybrid software platform may be necessary to have the storage systems work properly. Over time, as the systems begin to age, upgrades will be required to maintain the integrity of the system. If you’re working with a third-party system, you’re also running the risk that the vendor may stop supporting the system after you’ve subscribed to it.
5. It does not eliminate data security risks.
The Ponemon Institute reports that the cost of a data breach in the United States is more than $3.6 million. When using storage virtualization, you’re facing a 25% risk of having a data breach at some point over the lifetime of the system. Thieves know that the information you’re holding in storage is valuable. They’ll target this system, and because there are two points of access, they have another possible way to be successful. You must protect your software and your hardware components, especially with new privacy rules in Europe, and those costs could be excessive for some businesses.
6. It may create availability issues.
Even if you build onsite resources for storage virtualization, there is a risk present that you may not be able to access that information. LAN connections can be disrupted. Cloud connections can be disrupted. If you don’t have internet access for some reason, then you may not be able to access any of your data. Although there are fewer issues with downtime when using this technology, a promoted uptime of 99.999% still means you’ll lose access to your data for several hours throughout the year. The cost of that downtime must be added into the investments made into this type of system.
7. It creates more links for data access instead of less.
Use the device that you’re reading this content on as an example. If you save something, it will go to local storage – like an HDD, a solid-state drive, or a SIM card. That is one link in the chain of storage. With storage virtualization, you may have multiple links that must work together to complete the same process. From your ISP to your software node to the actual storage process, now you’ve got 3 links instead of one. Add in files being stored in multiple locations, and you could have many more links to worry about.
The advantages and disadvantages of storage virtualization are essential to consider because even though it is a useful technology, it must be appropriately used to be of benefit. There must be discipline with scalability and control over the data to make such a system useful. It is a iseful technology, but because it is technology, there will be accessibility issues which must be accounted for during the evaluation process.