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 and across storage systems.
Broadly speaking, a ‘storage system’ is also known as a storage array or Disk array or a filer. Storage systems typically use special 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 (partition) 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 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 use and server consolidation and to perform non-disruptive file migrations.