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A Virtual Storage Primer

storage virtualizationVirtualization has changed the way that data centers operate. More and more virtual machines are running on fewer and fewer physical servers, freeing up power, cooling and data center footprint resources. However, one area has tended to lag behind in many data centers, in part because it has always had some degree or another of potential virtualization: storage.

Storage has long been shared across applications and servers. In some cases, network attached storage has served multiple applications across an enterprise. However, truly virtualized storage is more than just shared storage. It’s storage that offers truly standardized virtual storage interfaces that support multiple vendors.


There are a number of important benefits that come from virtual storage. Virtual storage improves efficiency and utilization. It offers standardized storage management and automation tools, greatly reducing your operational investments. It also helps to reduce capital expenditures by offering interchangeability between storage products.


There are a couple of different approaches an organization can take to the implementation of virtual storage. Symmetric or “in-band” is a configuration in which all of your I/O moves across the virtualization layer. Asymmetric or “out-of-band” handles the metadata differently from the data itself, so that the mapping table for your data resides in each host, rather than at the virtualization layer. A hybrid approach attempts to combine the best of both worlds, utilizing a storage network switch.


Virtual storage solutions differ based on where the data is actually stored. There are host-based virtual storage solutions, in which the host or “volume mananger” connects to systems from multiple vendors to manage and to allocate those storage resources. Network storage solutions use virtualization along the data path between the storage system and the host. This configuration relies on Storage Area Networks. A storage system solution utilizes Fibre Channel networking connections in order to connect storage with a virtualization storage system, and resembles network based storage virtualization.

Ultimately, the right storage virtualization solution for your business depends on a number of factors, not the least of which are the types of existing storage systems you have in place and the kinds of storage needs that your organization will have in the future.

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Unitiv, Inc., is a professional provider of enterprise IT solutions. Unitiv delivers its services from its headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, and its regional office in Iselin, New Jersey, USA. Unitiv provides a strategic approach to its service delivery, focusing on three core components: People, Products, and Processes. The People to advise and support customers. The Products to design and build solutions. The Processes to govern and manage post-implementation operations.