Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than physical) version of something, such as an operating system, a server, a storage device or network resources. There are five areas of IT where virtualization is significant : Application Virtualization, Desktop Virtualization, Server Virtualization, Storage Virtualization and Network Virtualization. Virtualization can be viewed as part of an overall trend in enterprise IT that includes Autonomic Computing, a scenario in which the IT environment will be able to manage itself based on perceived activity, and Utility Computing, in which computer processing power is seen as a utility that clients can pay for only as needed. The usual goal of virtualization is to centralize administrative tasks while improving scalability and work loads.
Storage virtualization is a concept and term used within computer science. Specifically, storage systems may use 'virtualization' concepts as a tool to enable better functionality and more advanced features within the storage system. Broadly speaking, a 'storage system' is also known as a storage array or Disk array or a filer. Storage systems typically utilize specialized hardware and software along with disk drives in order to provide very fast and reliable storage for computing and data processing. Storage systems are complex, and may be thought of as a special purpose computer designed to provide storage capacity along with advanced data protection features. Disk drives are only one element within a storage system, along with hardware and special purpose embedded software within the system. Storage systems can provide either block accessed storage, or file accessed storage. Block access is typically delivered over Fibre Channel, iSCSI, SAS, FICON or other protocols. File access is often provided using NFS or CIFS protocols.
Within the context of a storage system, there are two primary types of virtualization that can occur:
Block virtualization used in this context refers to the abstraction (separation) of logical storage from physical storage so that it may be accessed without regard to physical storage or heterogeneous structure. This separation allows the administrators of the storage system greater flexibility in how they manage storage for end users.
File-level virtualization addresses the NAS challenges by eliminating the dependencies between the data accessed at the file level and the location where the files are physically stored. This provides opportunities to optimize storage utilization and server consolidation and to perform nondisruptive file migrations
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