Storage virtualization could mean big business for SMEs

Von Nicolas Callegari

Storage virtualization should help smaller businesses to afford the functionality of higher-end storage systems, and to gain better control of existing investments, Gartner Inc. said last week.

Josh Kirscher, vice-president of research at Gartner, said that, while the idea of virtualization as an enabling technique was not new, increased emphasis is bringing to reality what theorists have been saying about information life cycle management (ILM) for years.

?Virtualization has a number of benefits that it could supply to any business (such as increased resource flexibility, optimized performance and cost reduction and eliminated boundaries), but it also has a number of potential challenges,? Kirscher says.

He adds that it is the scalability, manageability, reliability and complexity challenges that need to be investigated before any enterprise implements storage virtualization.

According to Gartner and HDS, the most promising of the various techniques of storage virtualization. would probably be control unit virtualization. and partitioning, where virtual channels are created on a single control unit, and the storage is partitioned according to the business?s needs.

?This is ideally suited for businesses that have multiple departments and applications, each requiring their own dedicated storage,? adds Fanie van Rensburg, MD of Shoden Data, local HDS distributor.

According to the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), analysis of surveys received showed that end-users ranked their storage pain points in the following order: Costs (TCO), managing growth and capacity needs, asset management, lack of interoperable solutions and complexity.

Additionally, given various compliance requirements, the need to have some data immediately accessible and the need to ensure that data is stored on the correct media (according to its level of importance), are all principles that ILM seeks to address and, thanks to virtualization, will become a reality.

?It is the way the industry is going,? Van Rensburg comments. And companies are waking up to this fact.

According to Gartner, in a survey carried out at last December?s Data Centre conference, 89 percent of the attendees polled said that control unit virtualization and partitioning was something that they or their companies would investigate.

In another poll, 65 percent of the attendees agreed that the best place to put virtualization was on the control unit, while 10 percent believed it should go on the network and 25 percent in the network intelligence fabric, Kirscher says.

This does not now mean that every business should rush out and invest in storage virtualization. But it may be a good addition to a business?s three-year plan, based on an assessment of its data usage patterns, defined data classes and required SLAs.