July 02, 2012, 8:00 AM — About three years ago Host.net, a collocation and managed service provider, decided it was going to fully embrace the cloud as a new suite of offerings for customers. When migrating to the new service, the company wanted to use its legacy hardware infrastructure - mostly Dell and EMC storage servers - with new hardware that had been purchased for the upgrade. But they didn't want to be tied down to any one vendor moving forward, in case application needs or markets changed.
Host.net officials wanted to manage these storage components in a unified control panel, with the flexibility to add additional hardware in the future, if need be. The answer they found was storage virtualization.
In a cloud world, data storage is like the foundation of a house, says Host.net CTO Jeffrey Slapp. "If it's weak from an availability or resiliency standpoint, everything else above it can fail," he says. "Storage has to be bulletproof for everything else to work."
Host.net has used a storage hypervisor to power its cloud offering from DataCore, which is one of a handful of companies in the storage virtualization market. Later this month, on July 28, Host.net hopes to celebrate 1,000 consecutive days of cloud storage offerings without any downtime, which Slapp attributed to the high availability storage virtualization has provided the company.
The idea of storage virtualization is to allow for central management of disparate underlying storage hardware components. David Hill, a storage analyst at the Mesabi Group, says the technology is not new, but offerings are becoming more advanced and users are increasingly demanding the functionality as the cloud is embraced. Storage hypervisors, he says, need to be able to control both horizontal and vertical storage hardware. Horizontal means controlling different types of storage components such as solid state drives, external drives, in-memory and server storage. Vertical management means managing heterogeneous arrays, meaning both cloud-based and on-premise storage options and all of their functionality, from data management to virtual machine snapshots and replication. True storage hypervisors, he says, work across multiple storage providers.