Funny thing about clouds, the real clouds I mean. You can see them, maybe even try to touch them if you get to a high altitude. In cloud computing virtualization is virtually indispensable and like real life clouds, presents an interface you can see and access but the real hardware hides behind the virtualization layer.
Virtualization has different meanings in different contexts. In cloud computing environments virtualization acts as the intermediate layer, controlling and allocating all computing resources dynamically for greater efficiencies. Virtualization separates functions from physical hardware while allowing usage, in plain terms.
We know virtualization in storage at its basic level in the form of hard disk logical partitions in a PC. Though not separate, the operating system presents the user with logical drives as separate units contained in one or more hard disks. In networked and cloud computing environments, storage virtualization goes a step further. A virtualization layer sits between the actual storage servers and the user. The physical devices are hidden from the user. Administrators can dynamically allocate storage to end users and users see logical drives on their local machines as local units even though data may be stored in different drives in different servers in different locations. Storage virtualization allows easy access and management of data across multiple platforms and technologies. Administrators can allocate storage resources regardless the type of storage device and where it is located. Storage Area Network is a widely deployed virtualization technology to manage a network of hard drives held in a rack, connected to the network instead of being joined to a server. Research shows that storage is in maximum demand in IT environments.
Benefits of Storage Virtualization
The benefits of storage virtualization are huge. These can be briefly described as follows:
- Storage Area Network virtualization technology allows flexibility in remote storage and data back up on secure hard disk racks.
- Administrators can increase storage capacity by adding hard disks to the racks without disruption of services. The capacity enhancement can be done in real time.
- Virtualization allows better use of physical storage through dynamic allocation. Instead of one hard drive per user or server, virtualization spreads data across different hard drives. Individual hard disks are not constantly accessed this way since the load is spread across different drives and it enhances operational life.
- Different machines and servers can access storage area networks.
- One individual user may “see” a large volume capacity available even though it is an aggregation spread over different hard disks.
- Administrators can hide or mask storage devices and specify selective access, thus resulting in security.
- Virtualization results in greater operational efficiency and a reduction in infrastructure with reduced costs.
- Lowered cost of managing increasing amounts of data is a direct benefit of storage virtualization.
The greatest gain is operational ease, efficiency and flexibility in implementing storage virtualization, with cost savings a secondary consideration.
Storage virtualization with all its benefits is the future in public and private clouds and networked environments. Industry trends show that leaders such as Hewlett-Packard, NetApp, IBM, EMC and Dell are all focusing on storage virtualization. DataCore and FalconStor are already in the market with hardware and software solutions for storage virtualization.
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