Managing Storage Solutions Easily With Virtualization

Storage virtualization is a booming segment of the information infrastructure that is not only allowing organizations to better adapt to the modern business environment, but actually helping them to prosper, as Steve Gold explains...

Whilst a growing number of vendors are extolling the more obvious benefits of virtualization - namely an improve rapid return on investment (ROI) and longer term economies, as well as ease of use and improved system efficiencies - one area that many enterprises need assistance on is the not insignificant task of managing the virtualized storage infrastructure.

One of the key advantages of storage virtualization is the ability to do more with less IT resources and this adage also applies to managing the virtualized environment.

Provided IT managers are able to view the entire virtualized resource - regardless of the vendors involved in supplying the services and technologies involved - they can be more flexible and cost-efficient when it comes to expanding and managing their infrastructures.

Generally speaking, this is due to fact that they no longer need to be locked into a single storage vendor's offering, due to a virtualized environment's ability to be vendor agnostic.

This freedom is often overlooked in the planning stages of virtualization and is often only realised when the system gets up and running.

It's at this stage that managers begin to realise that can easily expand their storage without any downtime, and without the need to over-buy their storage, as often happens with physical storage from single vendors.

With the ability to manage any and all data, regardless of storage type, vendor or platform through a single console, IT managers can greatly simplify the task of managing their virtualized resources.

According to an independent white paper published in April 2009 by Tek-Tools and written by George Crump, the virtualization analyst and founder of Storage Switzerland, it's important not to overlook the effects of virtualization on a company's complete IT resources.

Crump's paper cautions against ignoring the effects of virtualization on other elements of the infrastructure and in particular hones in on the issue of server virtualization's effect on storage management.

According to the paper, as virtualization has spread rampantly throughout enterprises, many compromises have been made on physical systems.

Unfortunately, says Crump, these compensations can counteract the benefits that virtualization is designed to bring to the IT environment in the first place.

The paper suggests that if the connection between server virtualization and storage is ignored, the ROI of virtualization projects is actually reduced.

However, says the paper, if integrated, virtualization and storage management can reveal vast amounts of allocated but unused storage, this often translates into wasted resources on many levels.

And, considering most virtual storage infrastructures use high performance, highly reliable and expensive tier one storage, Crump says that the savings associated with identifying these wasted resources can be significant.

In one example cited in the paper, eight terabytes of storage allocated to a relatively small virtualized environment was identified as unused.

At a conservative estimate of $12,000 per terabyte of tier one storage, identifying eight terabytes of unused storage and reallocating it - or simply not unnecessarily purchasing more of it - immediately saved $96,000 for the company concerned.

Crump's white paper is complemented by a free Redbooks paper from IBM entitled `PowerVM Virtualization Managing and Monitoring,' which looks at how IBM's approach of closely integrating virtualisation hardware and software can reap dividends in the corporate storage arena.

The PowerVM virtualization technology, in case you were wondering, is an overlay system that supports and manages the virtual environments on Power5-, Power5+ and Power6-based systems.

Available on most IBM System P., Power Systems and BladeCenter servers as optional extras - and supported by the AIX, IBM i, and Linux for Power operating systems - PowerVM is designed to allow companies to aggregate and manage resources using a consolidated, logical view.

According to IBM, the main benefits of deploying the technology allows users to cut their energy costs by the process of server consolidation, as well as a reducing the costs of existing infrastructures.

In use, PowerVM virtualization is billed as allowing enterprises to better manage the growth, complexity, and risk of their infrastructure by adopting a best practice approach to managing the virtualized storage environment.

Whilst the free-to-download 500-plus page paper looks at real-world examples of Power Systems and PowerVM platforms, the ideas it promotes apply to all virtualized storage systems.

By automating the process of virtualized storage systems management, the paper shows that significant savings can be made both directly and indirectly on a number of cost fronts.