Acquiring extra data storage capacity or more computing power generally meant buying more hardware. As space filled up on drives, more hardware investment was the only real solution. Nowadays, however, there is a less expensive and less disruptive option – virtualization.

What is virtualization?

Virtualization can cover the main computing functions of networking, computing power and storage, and data may be stored locally just as in a hardware-based arrangement.

Virtual storage

More and more IT departments are embracing virtual storage as an ideal way of adding storage facilities without the need to invest in JBOD or other external arrays.

The key benefits are those of cost and flexibility: the costs of buying new hardware, employing more staff to look after it, the extra running costs in terms of power and cooling and possibly the need for more space to accommodate it are removed.

It’s a way of making more use of existing hardware resources by means of either using the cloud or software-defined storage.

The Cloud

Data is stored on servers operated by a third party – a cloud provider. Your own hardware resources aren’t being taken up and your data can be accessed at any time by others in your organization potentially from anywhere, and backups can be made to the cloud if desired.

Software-defined storage (SDD)

Where existing hardware resources are effectively extended by the use of software to manage and pool existing resources. Your data is still held locally – just that increased capacity can be achieved without the need for more hardware.

The Cloud: What is Required?

An account with a cloud services provider – you work with a third party to store your data on their servers.

This can be a potential drawback for some: the idea of sensitive data being stored on third party servers may be a concern and cloud computing can be slower than a local storage set up. Another issue is that if their servers fail, access is lost to applications which leads to downtime, loss of productivity and thus income.

Some elect to use cloud as backup-only which means local storage requirements haven’t necessarily been reduced.

Software-defined storage: What is Required?

Two software systems to control your existing hardware – a hypervisor and a virtual SAN.

Two of the industry leading hypervisors are vSphere from VMware and Hyper-V from Microsoft. They work with x86 type servers so there’s not likely to be a need to invest in new hardware, and virtual SAN systems include SvSAN provider StorMagic – a SAN that integrates with the two hypervisors mentioned above.

Indeed, the above SAN is operational with just two servers – and this includes situations where the IT facility has to serve multiple remote locations. They can be controlled from one point – a very valuable benefit as extra data demands can stem from extra branches and the like opening. Previously this would have necessitated investment in local IT infrastructure.

How easy is it to transition to a virtual SAN?

There will be a learning period many IT enthusiasts should grasp, but with the right virtual SAN vendor support, it will be much quicker and easier than installing new hardware not to mention the downtimes likely involved.

Cloud Computing Concept