The IT landscape is changing rapidly. The field’s moving away from the traditional one server/one application model toward virtualization, a new one server/multiple applications model that’s a much more efficient way of doing things. The massive amounts of data generated by mobile consumer devices and widespread Internet access, along with the arrival of electronic health records, social media and e-commerce, forces companies to invest in virtualization just to keep from drowning in a sea of accumulated data. This article focuses on how server virtualization, storage virtualization and cloud storage come together to form a complete solution to the problem: What do I do with all this data?
When people talk about virtualization, they are usually talking about server virtualization. Consolidating servers is the main benefit of server virtualization. While a traditional server uses only 5-10% of its processing power, a server with a virtualization platform running multiple virtual machines uses up to 50-80% of its total capacity. You no longer need as many physical servers because one physical server can host multiple workloads simultaneously. This technology gives you a way to handle the mountains of data your company is collecting and processing, but it begs the question: how do I store it so it’s accessible when I need it?
Storage virtualization makes it possible to use a larger percentage of your storage resources just like server virtualization makes it possible to use a larger percentage of a physical server’s computing capacity. With storage virtualization software, you can pool unused storage from various locations around your storage system and allocate it to applications as needed. A logical space is created and then metadata is used to map the logical space to the physical disk. To move the data between storage systems all you need to do is change the map.
This is where tiered storage enters the picture. Within a tiered storage set-up, you prioritize data according to criteria like its sensitivity or its usefulness to day-to-day operations. Then, the data critical to your day-to-day operations is stored where it’s readily available while the data that is only accessed once in a while, or maybe never, is stored somewhere out of the way.
As more and more businesses adopt virtualization, sales of storage software are booming. You need sophisticated management tools to handle the sheer volume of data being generated and its movement throughout your storage system. Managing data using a virtualized environment is more efficient and less costly than buying more and more hardware. Eventually, your organization may decide to store one of your tiers of data in “the Cloud” to gain even more flexibility and save additional money.
Cloud storage is great for backup, archiving, disaster recovery and primary storage. It is a cheaper alternative to buying more hardware because you can pay-as-you-go. You can use as much or as little as you need at any given time, and the process is managed by the provider, reducing your staffing requirements and hardware and maintenance costs. As it happens, cloud infrastructure costs are plunging. The heavy hitters in the cloud storage market, Microsoft Windows Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Storage, have all recently slashed their prices.
So, to answer the question, “what do I do with all this data?”: First you figure out whether or not virtualization makes sense for your company, then, assuming you decide it does, you move forward with server virtualization and storage virtualization. Analyzing the data that your company collects and stores and then organizing it into tiers ensures that the data your users work with on a daily basis is accessible, and the data they do not is out of the way, where it is not occupying valuable real estate. A cloud storage service is a cost effective alternative to hardware for storing that rarely accessed data.
The real advantage to connecting the dots between server virtualization, storage virtualization and cloud storage is that you gain flexibility when dealing with the ever increasing amounts of data your company collects and stores. Plus, you achieve greater operational efficiency and save money at the same time.