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Get familiar with storage virtualization software options

Virtual storage offerings are not one size fits all. Factors in virtualized storage software selection include storage type, current infrastructure and management tools.

Storage virtualization is one way admins can improve migration speed, host more than one array type and make costs more predictable. Yet, like any technology, IT managers must ensure whatever software tool they choose to virtualize storage is the best fit for the organization.

More vendors now offer -- and develop -- numerous software management tools to help IT teams that wish to virtualize their storage. These tools, such as Nutanix Acropolis OS (AOS), Flexify.io, DataCore SANsymphony and StarWind Virtual SAN, are all different; vendors almost always design storage virtualization tools for a specific use case or infrastructure type.

During storage virtualization software evaluation, it is important to consider the tool's use case. Some storage virtualization tools virtualize hardware storage arrays. Other tools create virtualized storage on top of hyper-converged hardware or are cloud native. In terms of storage types, certain tools are intended solely for use with block storage, while others work at the file level.

IT teams can use the storage type, infrastructure availability and management tool use case to select the right storage virtualization software for the organization.

Flexify.io

Flexify.io is exclusively designed for multi-cloud setups. Specifically, Flexify.io allows organizations to create cloud-agnostic virtualized storage, which eliminates dependency on any one single cloud storage provider.

Flexify.io can replicate data across multiple clouds, which helps insulate that data against a cloud outage or a data loss event. Admins must simply configure applications to use Flexify.io (with the Simple Storage Service protocol) instead of a specific cloud provider, and then Flexify.io redirects the application's storage requests to the appropriate cloud. The offering uses this same technology to assist with cross-cloud data migrations.

A main benefit of Flexify.io is it does support hyperscale cloud providers such as Amazon and Microsoft, but it also works with less-expensive clouds such as Wasabi and DigitalOcean.

Nutanix AOS

Nutanix Acropolis OS is an option to build hyper-converged systems. There are two things that make Nutanix AOS unique from other hyper-converged offerings.

Nutanix AOS works with a variety of hypervisors including VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V or AHV. It is also not based on proprietary hardware. Organizations can implement AOS on standard off-the-shelf server hardware from a variety of vendors.

Nutanix AOS does not rely on shared storage. Instead, each node within the hyper-converged cluster has its own storage and AOS combines storage within various nodes into a logical pool. When admins deploy an application, the Nutanix software configures it to use storage that is in proximity to the hypervisor that runs the application. This minimizes storage latency and ensures optimal performance.

Admins can manage Nutanix AOS through the proprietary tool Prism. It provides application discovery and monitoring and helps with capacity planning and cost governance. It also features an orchestration engine that allows for codeless automation.

StarWind Virtual SAN

Like Nutanix AOS, StarWind Virtual SAN is a product that eliminates the need for expensive shared storage through storage pool creation with hyper-converged hardware. StarWind Virtual SAN also supports a variety of hypervisors including VMware ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V, Linux KVM and the Citrix Xen suite. It is designed to work with off-the-shelf server hardware.

StarWind advertises its virtual SAN product to enterprises that need SAN-like functionality in remote office branch offices. For SMBs, the company discounted licensing for smaller organizations and free technical support.

A main benefit of StarWind SAN is performance. StarWind claims that it can deliver 90% of the storage hardware's raw performance. This metric is far higher than that of Microsoft's Storage Spaces Direct or VMware's vSAN. Additionally, StarWind can be configured to deliver 99.99999% availability.

The StarWind Management Console allows admins to monitor the entire virtual storage deployment through a single pane of glass.

DataCore SANsymphony

DataCore SANsymphony is an enterprise-grade storage virtualization offering that is designed for block storage devices. It allows organizations to run mixed block storage devices from multiple vendors under a common management interface.

Admins can classify the various storage devices based on their performance characteristics such as location, access methods and storage protocols. This allows organizations to provision storage according to a workload's performance and availability requirements.

Datacore SANSymphony supports features such as snapshots, thin provisioning, load balancing, encryption and storage replication. The vendor also offers DataCore Insight Services, an analytics tool that assists with capacity plans, storage bottleneck location and storage issue diagnosis.

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