Storage Virtualization - 5 Best Practices to Consider - Part One

Posted by Mark Teter, Chief Technology Officer
June 19, 2011

Companies struggle today to establish effective policies for managing their data centers and computing IT assets most efficiently. Ideally, organizations can dynamically map and model their business applications to the underlying infrastructures—helping to reduce business risk and cost associated with application support. The inability to react to change not only drives up costs, but also increases the likelihood of unplanned downtime for business applications.

That’s precisely where storage virtualization can help. The industry now features several options for virtualized storage infrastructures. For example, you can virtualize through hosts, storage arrays, or networks—either Fibre Channel or Ethernet. Additionally, you can have either block or file-level virtualization solutions.

All that said when it comes to implementing storage virtualization we use five best practices that help our clients capitalize on the inherent benefits of virtualizing your storage infrastructure. Here are the first two.

1. Set your scope and objectives in advance.

Storage virtualization could be one of the most cost-effective and strategic decisions a company makes. However, you should make this decision very carefully because removing a storage virtualization solution can easily disrupt the application-computing infrastructure.

That’s why you should begin storage virtualization implementations with a thorough understanding your scope and overall objectives. You should first fully understand what you want to achieve or overcome with storage virtualization.

Before you begin a storage virtualization project, you should also know that a virtualized technology environment completely abstracts the relationship between the data presented to the server as storage and the location of the physical storage. That means storage administrators will not know precisely where storage capacity is allocated. This often presents difficulty for IT departments when they troubleshoot application performance issues.

When you’re ready to begin, ask yourself, “Is this project part of a broader virtualization deployment strategy? Or is it designed for a specific use, such as tiered storage, disaster recovery, or basic resource management?”

Then, determine if your virtualization project requires a specific platform integration. For example, does it need to support AS/400 systems, UNIX servers such as Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, special clustering considerations or data sharing requirements, or specific protocols such as CIFS, NFS, FC, iSCSI, FCoE?

When you understand these basic requirements, you’re better prepared to select a vendor that can most fully meet your scope and objectives. It’s likely you’ll live with your chosen vendor’s virtualization solution for at least 3-5 years, so continue your vendor selection process with specific goals and objectives—you want to select all your vendor partners carefully and diligently.

2. Arrange for proper staff training

Storage virtualization requires specific training and knowledge, so it’s important to assess your current IT staff for relevant, related skills and identify potential knowledge gaps.

For example, is your storage administrator current on the latest virtualization technology approaches? If not, you should evaluate independent training and certification. Make sure you've addressed potential skill gaps so you can properly assess the different virtualization technology approaches and how each approach might fit into your company's existing infrastructure.

Once you’ve selected a virtualization approach, consider vendor-specific training. Storage virtualization approaches vary greatly from vendor to vendor, so you will want to take full advantage of all the features your chosen vendor provides.

Check back shortly and we’ll cover the final 3 storage virtualization best practices, and as always please feel free to share your best practices with us.

About Mark Teter Before he retired from ASG in 2013, Mark Teter was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the author of 'Paradigm Shift: Seven Keys of Highly successful Linux and Open Source Adoptions.' As CTO, Mark regularly advised IT organizations, vendors, and government agencies, and he frequently conducted seminars and training programs.

Filed Under: Virtualization

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