Beating the data deluge with storage virtualisation

As data volumes explode, businesses face the daunting prospect of unmanageable storage growth. Steve Murphy, UK Managing Director for Hitachi Data Systems reveals how organisations can use storage virtualisation to consolidate their systems, increase utilisation and efficiency and reduce costs.

As virtualisation is a technique rather than a specific technology, applied to areas such as servers, storage, applications, desktops and networks, it is often poorly understood. This article attempts to bring clarity to how virtualisation is applied to storage systems and the benefits it can deliver.

Fundamentally, virtualisation aims to abstract software from hardware, making the former independent of the latter and shielding it from the complexity of underlying hardware resources.

Storage virtualisation often performs two functions. It makes many storage systems look like one, simplifying the management of storage resources and in some cases provides partitioning so one storage system appears as many, providing security for applications that need to be separated.

Across most industries, data volumes are spiralling out of control as the amount of information and content we create grows exponentially. Data storage within most organisations is increasing by about 60% annually. This means that organisations have to increase their capital and operational expenditure in areas such as IT staff, power, cooling and even data centre space.

Traditionally, organisations have tried to deal with growing data volumes by buying more disks. However many organisations are finding that their storage infrastructures are becoming unmanageable, while the utilisation of these systems is unacceptably low, often running at 25-30%.

Another challenge is that while data volumes grow, IT managers still need to meet the same demands: supporting new and existing applications and users so that the business remains competitive, managing risk and ensuring business continuity and maintaining compliance with government regulations and specific industry standards.

There is a strong argument for organisations to stop buying more capacity and, instead, look for ways to consolidate their existing estate and increase utilisation and reduce costs. Storage virtualisation is an increasingly popular way for organisations to address these challenges.

Storage virtualisation aims to ‘melt’ groups of heterogeneous storage systems into a common pool of storage resources. Vendors have adopted a range of methods to achieve this. One technique is to let the server handle storage virtualisation, although as the server is removed from the storage system and has other functions to manage, performance can suffer.

One of the most widely used approaches is to use the intelligent storage controller as the virtualisation engine. By installing an intelligent storage controller in front of their infrastructure, companies can aggregate existing storage systems and virtualise the services provided to host applications such as data protection, replication, authorisation and monitoring. This offers advantages such as simplified management, increased utilisation of storage resources, seamless migration across tiers of storage, lowered interoperability barriers and better integration of common functionality.

Virtualisation brings about cost reductions and efficiencies, by reducing the need for additional software applications and licences, the need for additional hardware (which in turn means lower power, cooling and space costs) and also labour costs and resources required to manage spiralling data volumes. Typically, administrators can manage from three to 10 times more storage capacity once virtualisation is implemented.

Storage virtualisation also allows organisations to consolidate and utilise existing storage assets, extending their shelf life so they continue to deliver value. Organisations can also consolidate their management and storage services, using a single standard interface to manage storage, archive and backup functions.

Storage virtualisation allows organisations to consolidate systems and increase utilisation, significantly cutting the power required to both operate and cool their data centres. This reduces energy costs, which makes good business sense from an environmental and cost saving perspective.

Hitachi Data Systems is exhibiting at Storage Expo 2008 the UK’s definitive event for data storage, information and content management. Now in its 8th year, the show features a comprehensive FREE education programme and over 100 exhibitors at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 15 - 16 October 2008

Source: StoragePR