Thursday, 20 August 2009

Virtual Storage Infrastructure - Can Software Take Center Stage?

...Comprehensive storage virtualization software offerings like those from DataCore Software, a pioneer in the storage virtualization space, offer a superset of the advanced feature/functionality found on high-end storage systems, yet can be utilized across disparate disk resources and centrally managed. The same rich set of functions cover direct-attached and SAN-connected storage arrays, regardless of model or manufacturer. This software typically runs on standard x86/x64 servers and is fully portable between hardware generations so that customers are not faced with the usual obsolescence of proprietary storage appliances.

This capability provides data center managers with a number of distinct advantages.

Firstly, whenever a storage asset needs to be retired or upgraded, the migration process is non-disruptive and greatly simplified. The new array is presented to the storage virtualization engine and the data that was contained on the old array is transparently moved to the new array. No scheduled downtime is necessary.

Secondly, since command and control of the storage environment is in the hands of the overarching storage virtualization software, the backend storage can be purchased “bare bones”, without all the costly embedded firmware licenses. This has the effect of commoditizing storage and empowering the IT buyer to negotiate very aggressive discounts from multiple storage vendors.

Another interesting advantage of software-based storage virtualization kicks in when the software leverages “Moore’s Law” through the use of increasingly faster CPUs to speed up I/O processing. In effect, the storage virtualization server puts its internal processors and memory to use as high-speed caches for accelerating disk I/Os from anywhere in the virtual storage pool. Furthermore, this extra processing capacity helps offload advanced functions from the application hosts and the disk subsystems to ensure better quality of service across the board. This insulates the business from needing to incur costly proprietary disk controller storage upgrades and helps greatly extend the usable life of all storage assets on the data center floor.

What’s more, certain storage virtualization software can run as a virtual machine (VM) instance, alongside application VMs helping customers to further improve server resource utilization and truly maximize efficiencies throughout the data center...

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