3 min

Storage Virtualization Eases Management of Modern Workloads

Pooled capacity and centralized management help organizations maximize efficiency and increase ROI.

IBM’s SAN Volume Controller celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, with good reason: Storage virtualization continues to be an excellent fit for modern needs and workloads. Compared with conventional storage, where one array is logically tied to one server, external virtualization offers greater efficiency, functionality and management. It pools all available storage in an environment, puts a layer of “brain” between arrays and servers, and enables single-pane-of-glass control via a central console.

Some organizations achieve similar outcomes by managing storage within the server, but that tends to be quite expensive because of the computing power required. IBM’s approach, and the value of SAN Volume Controller, is to maintain separation between the server and the storage so they are no longer codependent. Then, organizations can quickly move data from one place to another without interrupting applications, and they can combine storage from multiple vendors in the same pool. (If you’re a “Lord of the Rings” fan, you’ll recognize why I like to call this “one ring to rule them all.”)

Let’s examine how storage virtualization increases efficiency and improves resource utilization and functionality.

Pooled Storage Helps to Eliminate Cumbersome Data Migration

Often, organizations use only a portion of a storage array. With conventional storage, there’s no easy way to recapture unused capacity. Solutions such as SAN Volume Controller virtualize and pool all available capacity so nothing is wasted. That also enables faster spin-up of applications because there’s no need to determine which array has sufficient room. If the pool has space, the capacity is ready to go.

Virtualization also allows for faster migration. There’s no need to pause applications to move workloads around, and teams don’t have to spend weeks or months transferring data from old arrays to new ones. They can bring new arrays into the environment, and their capacity automatically becomes part of the available pool.

Right-Size Storage to Support Business Needs While Managing Costs

SAN Volume Controller uses IBM Easy Tier, which helps organizations handle seasonal fluctuations while controlling costs. For example, a health insurance company holding an open enrollment period may need the faster speed of flash storage and be willing to shoulder that additional expense temporarily. Once that period is over, the goal is to shift databases back to a lower-cost tier seamlessly.

Storage virtualization makes that easy because “the brain” — accessed by the centralized console — can pull data up and down or between arrays based on need. That ensures organizations have access to high-speed arrays when they need them, while not paying for them when they don’t.

Extend Important Functions Across the Storage Environment

Customers also appreciate that SAN Volume Controller simplifies management in environments with storage arrays from multiple vendors. In fact, it supports more than 500 types of storage devices. Another facet of this versatility is the ability to apply functionalities across the storage environment. SAN Volume Controller provides access to storage functionality at the brain layer, meaning that functions are available even if they are not intrinsic to a specific storage array.

Because functionality is centralized, organizations can continue to leverage essential functions even if they need to change the underlying arrays. For example, an older batch of storage arrays may lack the encryption that an organization needs today. It could make a costly investment in all-new arrays to gain that encryption, or use SAN Volume Controller to layer encryption on top of existing storage. Other high-priority functions include data reduction, copy management and IBM Safeguarded Copy to support data recovery.

In talking with customers, I’ve encountered several IT departments taking a fresh look at storage virtualization as part of their modernization efforts. The move to storage virtualization may be prompted by aging arrays due for replacement, a desire to simplify management for busy IT departments or a drive to increase the ROI from storage solutions. Storage virtualization through SAN Volume Controller helps to achieve all of these goals, providing a solid foundation for modern workloads.

Story by Shelly Howrigon, the worldwide sales leader for IBM Storage Virtualize.

Shelly Howrigon

CDW Expert
Shelly Howrigon is the worldwide sales leader for IBM Storage Virtualize.