Storage intelligence: storage virtualization by Dell Compellent

Dell Compellent is using storage virtualization to automatically optimize data across multiple storage tiers and make the best use of storage technology.

Storage virtualization, like other forms of virtualization, is using excess system resources to create an artificial environment for data and applications. The process of abstracting functions away from the physical hardware allows the introduction of any number of wonderful new capabilities. The folks from Dell Compellent stopped by to let me know what they're doing in this area.

The company has developed a virtual storage environment that allows data and applications to be automatically positioned on tiers of storage for maximum performance. It also optimizes the use of storage so organizations can make best use of their storage devices. Dell Compellent is calling this concept "fluid data."

How does Dell Compellent describe what they're doing?

Compellent virtualizes enterprise storage at the disk level, creating a dynamic pool of shared storage resources available to all servers, all the time. With read/write operations spread across all drives, multiple requests can be processed in parallel, boosting system performance. Compellent Storage Virtualization allows users to create hundreds of virtual volumes in seconds to support any virtual server platform and optimize the placement of virtual applications.

What improvements does this virtualization make possible?

Dell Compellent has developed storage controllers that offer a number of really useful features. The storage controller makes it possible for virtual storage volumes to be created without IT administrators having to allocate devices to support specific servers or do extensive capacity or performance planning.

Servers (physical or virtual) simply see a specific amount of storage capacity without having to know that its data is being spread across a number of different storage devices. Servers can be connected to the controller using a number of different storage networking architectures. The controller optimizes how the data and applications are spread across physical storage devices.

The storage controller is intelligent enough to allow many different types of storage be used. It organizes the storage into different tiers and moves most used data onto the fastest storage devices. It can use different RAID levels on each tier to optimize performance, reliability and manageability.

The controller is also smart enough to allow data structures to be created based upon today's needs and expand as needed up to limits set by the administrator.

Snapshot analysis

If we examine typical system configurations, it soon becomes clear that a significant portion of the hardware costs can be attributed to storage. Companies seeking to cut costs are likely to find many opportunities to both reduce the number of storage devices needed and improve performance by using storage virtualization tools, such as those being offered by Dell Compellent.

This technology makes it more easily possible to precisely tune a storage configuration to meet today's and tomorrow's requirements because many different types of storage can be made to work together. As new types of storage become available, storage virtualization makes it possible to bring that new technology in without requiring a total replacement of storage systems in place today.