Storage virtualization streamlines storage administrators’ management of all storage solutions within an enterprise infrastructure, allowing them to more efficiently tier data for applications. Virtual storage solutions also help enterprises ensure that data is still available in case of failure and increases storage scalability.
Storage virtualization decouples logical storage from physical storage, so logical storage can be accessed across a storage network, through a management console. In a virtualized storage environment, data from disparate storage sources is pooled and visible to administrators.
See below to learn about storage virtualization technology and the top storage virtualization vendors in the market:
Top storage virtualization providers
- Storage virtualization providers comparison
- Features of storage virtualization
- Benefits of storage virtualization
- Storage virtualization use cases
- What to look for in storage virtualization
Storage virtualization providers comparison
Nutanix Acropolis is an infrastructure technology that lays a hyperconverged foundation and includes storage services, virtual networking, and virtualization. With Acropolis comes AHV, Nutanix’s native hypervisor, which supports virtual machine (VM) high availability, dynamic scheduling, and disaster recovery (DR). Acropolis customers don’t pay extra for AHV; it belongs natively to Acropolis. Acropolis also supports other virtualization solutions, including Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESXi, and Citrix XenServer.
Controller VM, the Linux virtual machine that runs on each Nutanix node, manages the aggregation of distributed storage resources in a virtualized pool. Data path redundancy among the nodes provides fault tolerance: data paths will re-route from a failed controller VM to another instance of CVM on another node.
- Support for multiple hypervisors
- Data path redundancy
- Persistent storage support for Docker and Kubernetes
Also read: Virtualization Software Comparison: Nutanix AHV vs. Citrix Hypervisor
Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure
Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) for cloud is a combined compute and storage solution that integrates Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat’s cloud computing and virtualization platform, OpenStack. The OpenStack Platform director, a life cycle management tool for the platform, permits the orchestration of all infrastructure resources. It can also be used to develop a software-defined data center (SDDC). If you have experienced technicians who want to invest in learning the OpenStack platform as well as managing storage, consider Red Hat HCI as a long-term investment in your infrastructure.
Red Hat Ceph Storage is an open-source, software-defined solution intended to run object storage on commodity hardware. Ceph is a platform for enterprises that need to avoid vendor lock-in or teams with developers interested in open-source technologies.
- OpenStack Platform director for life cycle management
- Open-source storage solution for object storage
- Scalable up to 50 nodes
StarWind Virtual SAN
StarWind Virtual SAN is a storage virtualization solution for enterprise remote offices and branch offices. It’s compatible with multiple hypervisors, including Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, and Xen. StarWind is also compatible with existing commercial off-the-shelf hardware. Consider VSAN if your enterprise doesn’t want to purchase any new servers for a new storage virtualization implementation.
VSAN features synchronous replication for fail over; it also supports the iSCSI protocol. VSAN users can start with a minimum of two nodes and scale as needed. It’s a highly rated storage solution for both small and large enterprises. For enterprises on a tighter budget, StarWind offers a free version of VSAN. StarWind has also made VSAN available as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) solution for enterprises that want to add it to their own solution.
- More affordable solution for enterprises on a tight budget for their storage infrastructure
- Flexible solution that supports multiple hypervisors and COTS hardware
- Minimum requirement of two nodes
DataCore’s software-defined storage platform, SANsymphony, is a solution for enterprises that need to unify data services, operations and analytics, and command functionality, such as APIs. Among the data services offered by DataCore is continuous data protection: CDP tracks each change within a dataset, so businesses can view and return to a previous state if the dataset is compromised.
DataCore encrypts the virtual disks atop the physical storage devices, so data is protected when hard drives have to be shipped. DataCore also supports auto-tiering for data based on application needs. SANsymphony has four different deployment options: storage virtualization, hybrid-converged, hyperconverged, and converged. Storage protocols supported include NVMe, Fibre Channel, iSCSI, SATA, and the cloud through storage gateways.
- Support for many storage protocols
- Encrypted virtual disks
- REST API and Power cmdlets
VMware’s storage virtualization solution integrates with vSphere, VMware’s cloud virtualization software package. Hybrid cluster deployments pool resources from both magnetic drives and flash devices; all-flash clusters use entirely flash devices. Admins can use virtual machine storage policies to set requirements for storage within the infrastructure.
vSAN administrators are able to view the health of their storage infrastructure through performance charts for clusters, virtual disks, physical disks, hosts, and VMs. vSAN allows block-level deduplication and compression, so admins can eliminate redundant data and create more space for disk groups.
- Integration with vSphere
- Multiple options for cluster deployments
- Health check features and performance charts
Features of storage virtualization
Storage virtualization solutions typically include the following features:
- Pool of storage resources from multiple locations: including different drives, such as hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs). Because the virtual infrastructure decouples the access location from the underlying physical storage, administrators are able to view stored data in one place.
- Support for multiple storage protocols: Enterprises that use legacy protocols, like SAS, as well as modern storage, like NVMe, benefit from storage virtualization platforms that permit both.
- Replication: Storage virtualization solutions often have replication capabilities, such as mirroring and snapshots.
- Single management console for multiple storage solutions: A storage virtualization platform allows administrators to manage the entire storage infrastructure, including disparate stores of data, from one location.
Benefits of storage virtualization
Advantages of storage virtualization platforms include:
- Centralization: A single solution for managing multiple storage systems improves admin visibility.
- Better opportunities for data analytics: Because all data is visible through the virtual pool, more data is available to be analyzed. This decreases data silos that happen when multiple data sources are analyzed separately, and it can increase the accuracy of insights drawn from data.
- Reduced vendor lock-in: increases the variety of hardware and storage solutions The nature of virtualization means that different servers and operating systems can run in the same infrastructure and still pool their storage resources. Because storage virtualization customers aren’t locked in to the same vendor, they also have more financial flexibility.
- Decreased hardware costs: Because virtual machines allow more resources to be hosted on a server, enterprises pay less for hardware.
Storage virtualization use cases
“By being able to virtualize our environment with StarWind, we were able to retire some old hardware, get our services highly available, and reduce power consumption and heat in our server closet.” –David Gardner, information systems manager, in a StarWind case study
“DataCore’s software-defined storage has been one of the most important/best strategies in our virtualization efforts to better utilize compute power in our data centers. It not only has allowed major upgrades to the underlying storage hardware and connectivity without having to do forklift upgrades… it [also] provides all SAN features and more with each new update of their software. DataCore’s product has exceeded our expectations and has saved our enterprise a lot of money, not only on the initial purchase but also for upgrades and effort. It has all the features of any high-end SAN, such as fiber channel, iSCSI, thin provisioning, storage tiering, snapshots, continuous data protection/recovery synchronous and asynchronous mirroring, performance reporting/graphing, true HA design.” –Systems architect/IT engineer, review of DataCore SANsymphony at Gartner Peer Insights
“Nutanix Hyperconverged Infrastructure goes beyond making our complex data center invisible to our customers and allowing over teams to only focus on serving users with performance and services that help our business growth. It is a tightly integrated hyper-converged solution that addresses our clients’ most rigorous financial and intelligent analytics operations with its manageable and scalable architecture. The Nutanix hyper-converged system also supports distributed file systems and data services that reduce the requirement of stand-alone storage devices.” –Assistant vice president, review of Nutanix Hyperconverged Infrastructure (AOS) at Gartner Peer Insights
What to look for in storage virtualization providers
When considering a storage virtualization solution, ensure that your business is able to answer the following questions:
- How much time does the platform take to implement? If your technology team has limited experience with storage and virtualization technologies, choose a solution that is easier to deploy out of the box, and select a vendor that provides ample technical support.
- What backup and disaster recovery features does your enterprise need in a storage solution? Determine the extent of the DR capabilities offered by each vendor, and what your enterprise requirements are, before selecting a platform.
- Is the solution tailored to the storage systems and protocols your business uses? Ensure you consider virtualization platforms that support all of your major protocols and storage solutions.
Is your enterprise considering implementing hyperconverged infrastructure? Read Best Hyperconverged Infrastructure Vendors next.