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The Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) And The Enterprise

Once the preserve of large-scale enterprises, the virtual storage appliance (VSA) now brings shared storage and network agility to businesses of all sizes. Open source platforms now even make free virtual appliances available to business users. And the technology continues to evolve.

What Is A Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA)?

Virtualization enables things which were formerly considered hardware resources to be controlled via software. This includes storage capacity.

When server virtualization was first developed, storage was often directly attached to the physical machine which housed the hypervisor – software that allows one or more virtual machines (VMs) to operate directly on underlying hardware. In a typical installation, there might be a few physical machines which would have to cope with the demands of numerous virtual servers. 

The answer to this dilemma was shared storage, and the creation through software of pools of data that could be accessed by any of the servers on a network. Managed and allocated intelligently, this shared storage brings a number of performance benefits, and increased scalability. Virtual storage appliances were developed in an attempt to shift more of the intelligent management of shared network resources to the virtual server hypervisor.

A virtual storage appliance or VSA is a storage controller which runs on a virtual machine (VM) to create shared storage, without the cost of additional hardware. VSAs can draw upon the unused storage within a virtual environment by acting as a data store for virtual machine storage, or by presenting storage directly to the VMs for their use.

A virtual storage appliance can be used to aggregate physical storage, consolidating the direct-attached capacity on each physical host to create a virtual storage pool that looks like networked storage to any device accessing it. 

In many cases, VSAs are virtual versions of existing products intended for deployment on dedicated hardware, and they can be deployed on their own server. Deploying a virtual storage appliance in the hypervisor or on its own hardware reduces costs, while allowing administrators to retain management consistency across different sizes of projects or networks.

Enterprise Use Of VSAs

Once introduced, VSAs gained popularity with large enterprises that needed to migrate data between disparate storage arrays. Virtual storage appliances are also routinely deployed on dedicated infrastructure at core data centers, making use of storage replication and standardized management functions.

As the technology matured and prices came down, VSAs have become popular with small businesses needing shared storage for redundancy and high availability. Virtual storage appliance products can be readily deployed within a virtual machine on a server hypervisor, using internal storage as part of a low-cost small office set-up.

Virtual storage appliances with high performance and scalability are now giving both enterprise users and small- to medium-sized businesses an alternative to traditional disk arrays.

VSA software offerings include both general-purpose products and applications intended for specific functions, such as backup and disaster recovery (DR). As with other IT products, virtual appliance programs run the gamut from proprietary commercial packages to open source solutions offering free virtual server software and free virtual appliances.

StarWind Virtual SAN And Virtual Storage Appliances

StarWind’s software and hardware products are the definition of “turnkey” and “plug-and-play” solutions, only requiring a minimal effort from the user to run. Appliances come pre-built, pre-configured, and pre-tested by the StarWind engineering team. No specialized staff are required on your side to install and configure the appliances, since everything is pre-configured to a point where you just need to plug in the power and network cables.

And your IT people won’t have to sweat over solution design, components purchase, building, configuration, or testing, thus saving you time and money.

To download the StarWind software products, visit the StarWind Software web page. An installer link and the license key will be sent to the e-mail address you specify.

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