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Is the Time Right for Virtualization?

From servers to networking to storage, development and introduction of virtual environments is spreading like wildfire.

In storage, virtualization usually refers to the ability to manage multiple arrays from disparate vendors as a single storage entity -- although this is probably the method in which it is least used. More commonly, IT pools storage across arrays from the same vendor to faciliate migration and volume management. Today's storage virtualization engines are available at the switch layer or the array layer of the storage infrastructure.

These engines enable administrators to create pools of logical unit numbers (LUNs) from any supported arrays to present to hosts based on specific requirements. The virtualization engine masks the originating storage array from the host, allowing for a less complicated and more consistent HBA configuration process and singular multi-pathing software usage. Additionally, these engines provide a mechanism for automated data movement between arrays, including both migration and replication services.

This virtualization mechanism can help organizations protect current storage assets by extending their effective lifespans and usability. Also, the heterogeneous migration and replication capabilities can help enable an information lifecycle management (ILM) policy. Perhaps the most important benefit of virtualization is the potential to save money by maximizing investment protection for existing infrastructure and lowering administrative costs for storage.

Storage virtualization can be tempting, but be sure to execute a detailed cost-benefit analysis to fully understand how much your current environment and data management policies can leverage storage virtualization.

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