Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing: What Is It and How Does It Work?

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Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing

Physical storage devices and the physical host have always had a strong link. That paradigm has, however, been changing drastically. Nowadays, almost zero local storage is required. As technology evolves, more advanced storage devices that obsolete local storage while offering more functionality are coming to the market. Key among these novel technologies is storage virtualization in cloud computing.

With organizations worldwide storing information in bits and pieces, this new technology has been of great help. This is because organizations often face the challenge of managing structured or unstructured data. Thus, the need to manage, tune, and preserve storage infrastructure that supports apps and data has been long overdue.

Data storage virtualization in cloud computing is a way to achieve high storage availability while minimizing hardware complexity and overhead costs. This post will delve into what is storage virtualization in cloud computing, its types, working mechanism, methods, benefits, use cases, and risks.

Table of Content

  1. What is Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing?
  2. Types of Storage Virtualization
  3. How Does Storage Virtualization Work?
  4. What is the Difference Between Server Virtualization and Storage Virtualization?
  5. Methods of Storage Virtualization
  6. Why is Storage Virtualization Important?
  7. Storage Virtualization Use Cases
  8. What Are the Benefits of Storage Virtualization?
  9. Storage Virtualization Risks
  10. Key Takeaways
  11. FAQs

What is Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing?

Storage virtualization refers to merging physical storage from multiple storage servers into one virtual storage server. A central console then does the work of managing the consolidated storage.

This process entails pooling several physical disks and having them seem like a single virtual storage gadget. In the end, network, data center, and vendor storage devices end up in one glass panel.

This technology banks on software to detect the storage space available on the physical hardware. It then consolidates that capacity as a storage pool that virtual machines (VMs) can use within a virtual environment. Alternatively, traditional architecture servers can use the storage.

Storage virtualization in cloud computing is the core element of storage servers. It fosters the management and analysis of storage within a virtual environment. This includes helping the storage administrator perform backups, archiving, and data recovery quickly and more efficiently. To do this, the technology technically masks the actual intricacy of Storage Area Networks (SANs).

Types of Storage Virtualization

There are several types of storage virtualization in cloud computing, including:

  1. Hardware-assisted virtualization
  2. Hypervisor virtualization
  3. Full virtualization
  4. Kernel-level virtualization
  5. Para-virtualization

Hardware-assisted Virtualization

Hardware-Assisted Virtualization requires hardware sustenance and resembles full para-virtualization. For its hardware support, an unmodified OS can manage. The software could also protect operations and handle hardware access requests.

Hypervisor Virtualization

A hypervisor is a segment installed between the hardware and the operating system. It allows multiple operating systems to work efficiently. It also offers features and necessary services to enable the OS to operate correctly.

Full Virtualization

Full hardware virtualization resembles para-virtualization. Here, the hypervisor ensnares the machine operations, which the operating system uses to handle the operations. Once it traps the operations, it emulates itself in particular software and returns the status codes.

Kernel-level virtualization

A separate version of the Linux Kernel operates in this form of hardware virtualization. The Kernel Level permits multiple servers to run within one host. The technology relies on a device driver to pass information between the Linux Kernel and the fundamental, the virtual machine.


Types of Storage Virtualization


Para-virtualization is based on a hypervisor, which takes care of the trapping and emulation of software. The guest OS is modified before it gets installed on any other machine for para-virtualization. There is improved performance since the modified system communicates directly with the hypervisor.

How Does Storage Virtualization Work?

Storage virtualization has helped many organizations manage all their data under one console worldwide. This also includes leveraging the vast array of functionalities available on the cloud. The technology works by mirroring physical storage hardware in a virtual space.

Several physical disks are consolidated into a group that uses one server to build a simple virtual storage environment. Virtual storage or logical storage segments, which help to reroute input/output (I/O) traffic, are allocated to the sole server.

A virtualization layer exists between the virtual disks and the physical volume. It enables applications and operating systems to reach and utilize storage. Virtual storage software handles all I/O requests within the storage pool, taking and sending each request to the appropriate storage disk.

The physical devices are subdivided into small data blocks, or entities known as Logical Unit Numbers (LUNs), RAID groups, or logical volume (LV). To remote servers, these segments are presented as virtual storage. The servers perceive them as physical disks rather than storage hardware. They make up the entire storage pool in a virtualized environment.

RAID arrays can work as virtual storage in a more complex environment. Here, several physical disks resemble one storage drive that marks and recreates data to multiple drives in the background. This procedure helps to protect against data failure in any of the drives and enhance I/O performance.

The virtualization software requires an additional action in its process of accessing data from the physical drives. Aside from creating a barrier between the virtual and physical storage drives, the virtual software also uses metadata to create a map. The map allows users to access the data stored within the server quickly.

Creating virtual storage on block-level storage environments and at the file level is possible. To virtualize a storage area network (SAN), all that needs to be done is to add a transition layer between the storage arrays and the hosts. As a result, servers are redirected to virtualized LUNs, rather than being redirected to LUNs on the individual storage tray. The virtualized LUNs never leave the virtualized device. NAS virtualization occurs by removing the dependencies between the physical storage location of files and the data attained at the file level.

In-band vs. Out-of-band Virtualization

Generally, two forms of virtualization can relate to storage hardware:

  1. In-band virtualization: This system is known as symmetric virtualization since it uses the same layer or channel to handle everything. This includes the data being read or saved and the control information, such as metadata and I/O instructions. The system enhances the provision of more advanced management and operational processes, such as replication services and data caching.
  2. Out-of-band virtualization: This system, which splits the control and data paths, is also known as asymmetric virtualization. Advanced storage features are usually unavailable here since the virtualization facility can only view the control instructions.

What is the Difference Between Server Virtualization and Storage Virtualization?

Difference Between Server Virtualization and Storage Virtualization


With the virtualization market expanding rapidly, there are several technologies currently available in the market. Most organizations have, for instance, embraced virtual desktops as the popularity of remote work increases. Application virtualization is a big part of that remote work arrangement. It allows desktops to use fewer resources to handle big chunks of work, as the applications’ operations systems reside elsewhere.

The virtualization story, however, has more to it. Virtualizing a server enables organizations to experience more efficient disaster recovery and high availability. This is because desktops treat the operating system separated from the hardware as a file. This leads to massive mobility for data access since the SAN can handle numerous servers’ files. When one server fails, another virtual server from the SAN can be opened to host the activity instead.

  • Server virtualization: It creates a more elastic system since it also enables on-demand hardware adjustment. The servers can be turned on when workloads increase and discontinued when workloads are low. Thus, with only several virtual servers on at all times, an organization can save money on energy costs.
  • Storage virtualization: When used alongside server virtualization, it can also help to increase availability. Virtualizing storage means that no disk is tied to any particular server. Thus, a drive can be managed from numerous areas and used as a sole repository. The SAN utilization is also much simpler since multiple servers can access the stored data.

Methods of Storage Virtualization

Today, storage virtualization in cloud computing refers to storage pooled from numerous physical devices and maintained in one virtual space. Containerization, hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), and other modern IT often take advantage of more than just virtual storage. They could use virtual network capacity in addition to virtual computing power.

The following are the various ways storage can be utilized in a virtualized environment.

Host-based Storage Virtualization

Host-Based Storage Virtualization is software-based, often seen in cloud storage and HCI systems. It manifests as a hyper-converged system, or host, comprising numerous hosts. The system presents the guest machines with virtual drives of different capacities. These could be PCs or physical servers with access to cloud storage and file shares or VMs in an enterprise environment.

Any device or array can function as a physical device. Consequently, all the management and virtualization occur through software at the host level. Some operating systems come with inbuilt virtualization capabilities, for instance, Windows Storage Spaces.

Array-based Storage Virtualization

Array-Based Virtualization mainly refers to how a storage array becomes the primary storage regulator and operates virtualization software. With this, it assembles the storage resources of other arrays and presents varying types of physical storage for use. These are generally in the form of storage tiers.

The storage tiers presented may include solid-state drives or HDDs on the different virtualized storage arrays. Servers or users accessing the storage cannot usually see the specified array and physical location as they remain hidden.

Network-based Storage Virtualization 

Network Virtualization in Cloud Computing is the most typical form of virtualization used by many organizations worldwide. A network drive, a purpose-built server or smart switch, connects to all storage hardware in an iSCSI or FC SAN. It then avails the storage in the network as one virtual package.

Why is Storage Virtualization Important?

Storage virtualization in cloud computing allows organizations to assemble resources and create scalable storage solutions. It is vital due to the following aspects:

Performing Tasks

Storage virtualization appliances handle several things, such as heterogeneous replication and federation. When lined up in front of arrays, these devices make a singular interface for the host.

This permits the administrator to blend the protocols and array behind the appliances.

WAN Management

WAN Management does not send multiple copies of similar data over the WAN environment. Rather, WAN accelerators cache the data locally and avail the requested segments at LAN speed without affecting the WAN speed.

Storage Tiering

Storage Tiering monitors the most commonly used data and places it within the highest-performing storage cluster. The least used data then ends up in the storage pool with the weakest performance.

Disaster Recovery 

With storage virtualization in cloud computing being flexible, it can raise disk utilization. This increases the chances of data recovery and helps with business continuity.

Storage Virtualization Use Cases

What are the use cases of Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing


Virtualization leads to increased storage efficiency. The following are some of the best application scenarios of storage virtualization:

Virtualization for Public Cloud Usage

Simultaneous management of a public cloud environment is complicated. Virtualization allows organizations to imitate heterogeneous storage systems between on-premise and cloud infrastructure. This ensures continuous backup, data management, and improved data backup. On-premise data replication leads to streamlined cloud DevOps.

Virtualization for Flash Storage

Flash storage virtualization allows organizations to balance performance with data storage functionalities. These can be adjusted to meet an organization’s workload needs. With a flash system, organizations of all enterprise-class data services and sizes get cost-efficient virtualized storage.

Virtualization for SAN Storage

Some benefits of enterprise-class SAN virtualization are simplified storage infrastructure management, tiered storage, and other advanced functionalities. With virtual SAN, organizations can attain enhanced efficiency since it sustains large workloads.

What Are the Benefits of Storage Virtualization?

While storage virtualization was once a problematic concept, it has evolved into a relatively seamless, easy-to-deploy technology. Some of its top benefits include:

  • Easier data management: Having a single panel makes it easier to manage data than when there are different locations. Storage virtualization allows data to be pooled into one management console for easier monitoring.
  • Better storage utilization: Storage virtualization involves assembling storage capacity across multiple systems. Allocating capacity is easy, which leads to more efficient utilization. This is dissimilar to disparate systems where some storage drives are always full while others remain unused.
  • Enhances the addition of advanced features: Tiering, caching, and replication are some advanced features that storage virtualization improves. By standardizing these practices across all systems, organizations can deliver these functionalities to systems that do not have them.
  • Scalability: Scaling storage up and down is effortless when it is virtualized. Unlike hardware devices, data can be fed directly to the virtual storage pool.
  • Improved data security: Cyber threats continue to become even more sophisticated in the modern world, necessitating foolproof data security mechanisms. Storage virtualization allows organizations to retrieve data from multiple locations to deter IT tragedies.
  • Easier data retrieval: Retrieving data is accessible with virtual storage. With data being pooled from multiple storage drives, it is very simple to access it. There is no need to open various storage disks to get specific pieces of data.
  • Easier to extend the life of older storage hardware: Older storage devices can handle less critical or archival data when included within a virtual storage pool. This is a great way to extend the hardware life that would have otherwise been disposed of.
  • Lower cost: The typical redundancies common in conventional storage hardware for data recovery are unnecessary in virtual storage systems. There are also fewer software licenses and appliances that have to be bought. All this leads to more cost savings for organizations regarding up-front financial commitments.

Storage Virtualization Risks

The following are some of the risks associated with storage virtualization.

Problems in Naming

Initially, not much VMS was under use, but there has been a massive uptake of VMS in recent years. This makes it difficult to differentiate between the important and the nonessential VMS. Building a naming system and sharing it with all involved parties can help to make the technology more future-proof.

Limited Adoption

A recent computer economics survey reported that a third of enterprise is adding funds for storage virtualization. There is some awareness of the cost of ownership, return on investment, and adoption rates.


On most occasions, failure occurs due to data loss and downtime. Installing VMware, which acts as the host for critical services, develops a sole center of failure. Prioritizing the protection of virtual machine data can help to eliminate this threat.

Key Takeaways

  • Storage virtualization in cloud computing involves pooling physical storage from multiple physical disks into one virtual volume. The pool encloses the network, data center, and vendor storage hardware.
  • The types of storage virtualization in cloud computing include para-virtualization, kernel-level virtualization, full virtualization, hardware-assisted virtualization, and hypervisor virtualization.
  • Multiple physical storage devices are pooled together into a group with one server to construct a simple virtual storage ecosystem. Local or virtual storage segments are then assigned to the sole server. These segments help to reroute input/output (I/O) traffic.
  • The virtualization software uses metadata to generate a map that helps more quickly access stored data.
  • Out-of-band and in-band virtualization are the two primary forms related to storage hardware. They mainly differ by the number of layers used to handle data and control paths. For the in-band format, there is only one layer to handle everything, while in out-of-band, there are different layers.
  • Storage virtualization can work alongside server virtualization to increase data availability.
  • The three methods of storage virtualization are host-based, array-based, and network-based storage virtualization.
  • Storage virtualization is essential because it helps to perform heterogeneous tasks and enhances disaster recovery, WAN management, and storage tiering.
  • SAN storage, public cloud, and flash storage are the three main usage case scenarios for virtualized storage.
  • The main benefits of storage virtualization include the fact that it helps with scalability, data management, and data retrieval.
  • Problems in naming, limited adoption, and failure are the significant risks associated with storage virtualization.

Storage virtualization in cloud computing allows organizations to unify storage space from multiple physical storage disks into one virtual volume. It is one of the revolutionary concepts of cloud computing that has made IT operations easier for numerous businesses. Check out our resources to learn more about cloud computing.


Q-1) What is the role of storage virtualization in cloud computing?

Storage virtualization disguises the complexity of a storage system, helping businesses achieve location independence from the physical location of data. It frees you from vendor lock-in and the hassle of migrating your data manually.

Q-2) When Should You Implement Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing?

You should implement storage virtualization when customers need space to store their data and handle the mapping process. You present them with virtual machines, file-sharing tools, or cloud servers.

Q-3) Can cloud storage be viewed as virtualization?

Cloud storage is virtualized. These include iSCSI volumes and Fibre Channel LUNs that appear as internal hard disks. The software that powers cloud storage is virtualized, while cloud storage is the service.

Q-4) What are the methods to implement storage virtualization?

There are two methods of virtualizing storage, including file-based and block-based methods. File-based storage virtualization is used in network-attached systems. A block-based storage virtualization intercepts I/O requests and routes them to appropriate physical locations.

Q-5) How much storage do you need for virtualization?

Cloud computing Data storage virtualization is limited to your capability and the vendor’s capacity. You can request terabytes of storage based on what’s allocated to the hypervisor.

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