Storage Virtualisation: A Virtual Necessity Or Yet Another Passing Fad?

Many of my last blog posts have talked generically about virtualisation and how to make it really work for your organisation and how to achieve the best ROI.

For some companies this is new ground as far as virtualisation goes, but some have been virtualising their storage environments for a very long time. So, in this blog, we talk about what storage virtualisation is, why do it and how it will benefit your business.

In today’s information-centric world, control of data is absolutely essential for the majority of organisations. For regularity compliance, security and disaster recovery, businesses need to keep their data safe.

They need to know where it is now and where it will be in 10 years time. So, all organisations have some sort of data storage system whether it’s simple tape back up or a more complex fibre channel SAN arrangement.

The trend now is to virtualise storage environments because of the well heralded benefits; it brings with it the tools to enable disaster recovery, high availability, service integration, capacity planning … the list goes on.

Like any other sort of virtualisation it’s the process of abstracting the logical from the physical and for storage this means the removal of a server having to control its own storage.

For most, the simplification of storage management and the performance improvements are key drivers for adoption.

For others it may be the need to have data synchronised between, say, production and business continuity sites without the overhead of middleware or the complexity of multiple start and end points associated with direct storage.

For direct storage, cost is not always a key driver for implementation, but when you really analyse the ongoing activities involved in supporting the management, planning, provisioning and repair of direct storage involved, then, it becomes apparent that change would be helpful!

A common approach to storage virtualisation is through network-based virtualisation, be that SAN or NAS devices.

With these storage technologies, IT Managers and departments can use virtualisation to begin to consolidate the data management of their organisation back to core services, which in turn will be streamlined and controlled.

Storage virtualisation has more support tools today than ever before, from thin provisioning to data de-duplication, consolidated backups to synchronous replication.

These add up to an improved services that can be sold back to the business and enabling a capacity on demand model to achieve cost savings.

As with any big IT implementation, there are some challenges and questions that need to be addressed before going ahead. Does it make sense to put all your eggs in one basket?

Can your selected vendor truly meet the requirements of your business, and can their tools support it? Should you look at best-of-breed or can you simplify the approach to storage virtualisation?

Cost is never the only option, but it is a critical success factor in this economic climate. But, the questions are; what is the cost of NOT virtualising your storage and how long can your business survive without it?

Andrew McCreath is an Engagement Partner at GlassHouse Technologies. GlassHouse is a global provider of IT infrastructure services enabling organisations to consolidate, virtualise and manage their IT environments.