Most IT professionals are familiar with server virtualization and the benefits it can bring to the datacenter. Many are not as aware that a similar change is happening to storage.

Aberdeen recently released a study entitled Why are IT Leaders Deploying Virtualized Storage. Storage virtualization means adding an abstraction layer of software that hides the physical devices from the user and allows all devices to be managed as a single pool.

This means data is represented differently from where it physically resides and it is managed as a logical unit. This report examines the pressures to virtualize, the benefits gained and the strategies being employed by organizations gaining the most from virtualizing their storage devices.

Almost every Aberdeen survey of IT managers shows that the number one pressure on the datacenter is meeting the increasing demand for storage capacity.

The rise of virtualization, increased government regulation and new computing devices are all increasing the amount of raw data needing storage. For example each server VM (virtualized OS and application stack) has a copy of the operating system, rather than sharing one copy of the OS across multiple applications on the same server.

Throwing more storage arrays and disks at the problem is one solution but companies are increasingly dealing with the challenge by bringing all storage devices under a single management umbrella — virtualizing their storage assets.

Figure 1: The Top Three Pressures to Implement Storage Virtualization

Storage virtualization is bringing compelling operational benefits to the infrastructure. Storage virtualization allows disparate storage capacity to be managed as part of a unified whole.

SAN or NAS devices that were formerly isolated and underutilized can now provide capacity for business processes that demand the most storage capacity. This can lead to the retirement of older or inefficient SAN devices and the centralization of data for easier management.

The reduction of time required to deploy new servers and perform data backup and recovery are also strong recommendations for deploying storage virtualization – particularly for IT departments that are struggling to do more with fewer resources.

Figure 2: The Top Business Benefits of Storage Virtualization

The Aberdeen report Why are IT Leaders Deploying Virtualized Storage also highlights strategies deployed by organizations that are getting the greatest return from their investment in virtualization.

We asked responding organizations to tell us what capabilities and enablers they used to support the deployment of storage virtualization.

We report on many of these, but as an example, the leading process capabilities were to create a virtualization plan with milestones in place and to track and budget virtualization resources separately from those of the rest of IT.

Figure 3: Leading Process Capabilities

Virtualization is a complex process and needs to be thought completely through before implementation begins. A well disciplined IT organization should have formal plans in place for every major project.

Companies that have deployed storage virtualization products report that they have a virtualization plan with milestones in place 20 per cent more often than companies with no virtualization.

Twenty per cent of the companies that have deployed storage virtualization report that they budget and track their virtualization spending separately from the rest of the IT budget. This allows for project-level ROI analysis and a true understanding of whether virtualization is delivering benefits as planned.

Dick Csaplar is senior research analyst for storage and virtualization at the Aberdeen Group IT infrastructure team

Pic: AMagill cc2.0