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The case for storage virtualisation

Has its time come?

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Lab ‘Virtualisation’ is acknowledged by IT professionals as being a pretty good thing. But when we dig a bit deeper into the results of our surveys, it very quickly becomes clear that much of the recognition is centred on x86 server virtualisation technologies and solutions.

Other areas, notably desktop and storage virtualisation, have garnered a much lower degree of understanding, experience and indeed acceptance. This begs the question of just how widespread the adoption of virtualised storage systems is destined to become?

Whilst familiarity with x86 server virtualisation systems is very high, the same cannot be said of storage virtualisation. This is an interesting result, as we are getting a picture from Reg reader feedback that the dependency between virtualised server environments and the underlying storage is pretty strong – in principle at least. The implementation of flexible server virtualisation systems is enhanced when deployed in association with virtualised storage that can offer similar levels of flexibility. It can even be argued that doing the former without the latter cannot release the full value and operational flexibility that virtualised systems are mooted to offer.

It is also interesting that recent research reveals that the importance of storage may finally be making it to the front of minds in many organisations. A recent survey carried out amongst readers of The Register revealed that even when questioned about matters concerning servers, managing the growth of storage is now seen to be the major challenge to be addressed. Such information growth is likely to bring storage-related technologies closer to the head of the queue when new projects are being put forward in your organisation – but it remains to be seen whether this will cause any up-swing in the adoption of storage virtualisation.

Few organisations are in the lucky position whereby they can throw out existing infrastructure when looking at virtualisation projects. This is likely to be the case in spades when it comes to looking at the potential for storage virtualisation opportunities. The act of virtualising storage can help lower costs, raise poor resource utilisation rates (which run even lower than unvirtualised server usage) and improve system flexibility. But organisations are likely to be looking for solutions that can be incorporated with their existing storage portfolios, rather than seeking complete replacement solutions, except in clearly defined projects where building from scratch makes sense.

It is time for storage to be recognised as standing on its own and no longer to be considered entirely as a by-product of storage platform building. The fact that is that in many operations it is now becoming visible that storage accounts for the largest proportion of acquisition and operational costs. There is every chance that storage virtualisation may now enjoy a similar boom to that enjoyed by server virtualisation, as organisations struggle to contain such costs and deliver higher levels of service and data availability.

These are still early days for storage virtualisation, and of course we’d be interested to know whether you are looking to undertake major storage virtualisation projects in the coming year. More importantly however, do they stand on their own or are they part of a larger undertaking? Are you building virtualised storage pools using new kit, or are you attempting to plug your existing storage resources into a virtualised infrastructure? Do let us know. ®

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