Think virtualization is a technology without a cause? Think again. According to companies such as FalconStor, DataCore, and StorAge, users aren't buying into virtualization for virtualization's sake, but because it helps them solve any number of vexing storage-related problems. Here's a sampling of applications users have found for the technology:
1. Improve capacity utilization. Pooling storage can help storage administrators improve upon the abysmal 40% to 50% capacity utilization rates that typify most IT shops. That's especially important for shops mirroring storage to a secondary site.
2. Disaster recovery. Before virtualization, data replication happened between like arrays or like hosts. Now, with virtualization, IT shops can replicate asymmetrically, that is, without having to provide a matching host or disk at the disaster recovery site.
3. Faster backup. By taking a snapshot of a file system, virtualization software can eliminate the bottleneck created by communication between the agents on the application server and backup server. Furthermore, because virtualization relies on snapshots, the backup window can be all but eliminated.
4. Data migration. Most disk vendors offer a proprietary tool to help migrate data between their own disks. Virtualization software can enable gradual data migration between heterogeneous platforms.
5. Automatic capacity expansion. With a fully virtualized system, policies can be put in place that automatically assign a database additional capacity if it's running out of space.
6. Online disk-based recovery. Combined with cheap ATA-based arrays, IT administrators are using virtualization's snapshot capabilities to provide online data copies that can be used to roll back to a time before corruption or file loss took place.
7. Application testing. Instead of testing an application against actual production data, you can use virtualization to create a replicated data set to safely test an application against.
8. Improve database performance. By placing a database's so-called hot files dynamically on a solid-state disk, virtualization software can help a DBA make efficient, shared use of an expensive solid-state disk resource.
9. High availability. By separating an application's storage from the application, virtualization insulates an application from an application's server failure.
10. Resource sharing between heterogeneous servers. On a SAN, Windows and Unix are notorious for not sharing nicely. A virtualization engine can ensure that servers running different operating systems can safely coexist on the same SAN.