Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing – How it Works (Use Cases)

Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing – How it Works (with Examples / Use Cases).  Storage virtualization is the practice of grouping physical storage servers from multiple network storage devices into a single virtual storage device managed from a central console. It is the process of pooling various physical disks and making them appear as a single virtual storage device. It logically integrates storage hardware from data centers, networks and vendors into a single glass panel.

Storage virtualization helps solve data management issues. It facilitates data backup, recovery, and archiving. You can easily manage your storage from a single console by virtualizing it.

This article discusses what storage virtualization is, how it works, its pros and cons, its types and some examples. Read on!

How Does Storage Virtualization Work?

Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing – How it Works (with Examples / Use Cases)
Diagram showing how storage virtualization works.

Most businesses are turning to storage virtualization to manage everything under a single console and leverage the vast array of functionalities. Virtual storage depends on the virtualization method used and the type of storage. Your data is written to a virtual drive rather than a real hard drive. 

With storage virtualization it uses software. For the software to access data stored in physical devices, it must either use an algorithm to dynamically locate data or create a map using metadata. 

During virtualization, your data is saved in a single file. Your disk arrays are placed inside a virtual pool, provisioned for maximum capacity. The software intercepts read and write requests from applications. The map created by the software allows you to find and save data.

In band vs Out of band Virtualization

You can apply two types of virtualization to storage infrastructure: in-band and out-of-band.

In band Virtualization

In band virtualization– both the control information (metadata or I/O instructions) and data are handled in the same channel. This allows virtualization to provide more advanced management and operational functions like replication, migration and caching. This form of virtualization is also known as symmetrical virtualization.

In band takes few resources, as it must find and attach multiple storage devices. As the data pool increases, the higher the risk on data path throughput.

Out of band Virtualization

Out of band virtualization– the control path and data are split. The virtualization facility only relies on the control instructions. In this case, advanced storage features are unavailable. 

Storage Virtualization Use Cases

Virtualization increases storage efficiency. Here are some best use cases for storage virtualization:

Virtualization for Public Cloud Storage

Managing a hybrid cloud environment simultaneously is extremely difficult. However, virtualization allows you to replicate heterogeneous storage systems between cloud infrastructure and on-premise. This allows for consistent data management, back up, and heightened data back up. The replication of on premise data enables streamlined cloud DevOps.

Virtualization for SAN Storage

Enterprise class SAN virtualization allows you to enjoy advanced functionalities, tiered storage, and simplified storage infrastructure management. Virtual SAN helps organizations achieve better efficiency as it supports large scale workloads.

Virtualization for Flash Storage

Virtualizing for flash storage allows you to balance performance with data storage features with the organization’s workload needs. A flash system provides cost efficient virtualized storage for organizations of all sizes and enterprise class data services.

Types of Storage Virtualization

There are three different types of virtual storages:

File Level Virtual Storage

In this type of virtual storage, server software such as NFS and Samba help host files in folders known as shares. In this case, there is no need to manage disk space. Besides, it allows multiple people to share a storage device.

Object Level Virtual Storage

In object level virtual storage, the data is abstracted into data buckets rather than being stored in disks. To access this data, you use API requests from your application. With Object level virtualization is ideal for large amounts of data, as you don’t have to worry about running out of space.

Block Level Virtual Storage

And in block-level virtual storage, the server acts as a desktop computer. It can access virtual disks that function like normal hard drives. It provides numerous functionalities such as booting and increased scalability and performance.

Please continue to read Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing  to learn how to apply it. 

How to Apply Storage to a Virtualized Environment

Here are the various ways to apply storage to a virtualized environment:

Network Based

Most organizations today use network based virtualization. In this scenario, a network device, i.e., a purpose built server or smart switch, connects all devices in an iSCSI SAN. It then presents the storage in the network as a virtual pool.

Host Based

Host based storage virtualization is common in cloud storage. It involves a host that presents virtual drives to guest machines. These guest machines can be cloud based virtual machines, file shares, or physical servers. 

The virtualization is done at the host level via software regardless of the physical storage array. Some server operating systems have built in virtualization capabilities. A good example is Windows Server Storage Spaces.

Array Based

In this type virtualization, the storage array acts as the primary storage controller. It runs the software, allowing it to pool different arrays’ storage devices. The storage array also presents different types of storage tiers for use as storage tiers.

A storage tier can have HDDs or SSDs on multiple storage arrays. However, the specific array and physical location remain hidden from the end users or servers accessing the virtual storage. This type of storage virtualization allows for easier data migration and centralized management.

What are the Benefits of Storage Virtualization?

Currently, you can implement virtualization in multiple ways. Over time, it evolved from the once challenging and difficult to implement to a rather seamless, easy to deploy storage technology. Ideally, virtualization revolutionizes how organizations store and manage their data.

Some of its top benefits include:

Better Storage Utilization

Virtualizing storage allows you to pool storage capacity across multiple systems. You can easily allocate capacity and make its utilization more efficient. This is unlike disparate systems that operate at varying capacities while others remain unused.

Easier Data Management

It’s easier to manage data through a single panel of glass than when spread out across different locations. Storage virtualization allows you to pool data into a single management console and monitor it easily.

Enables Addition of Advanced Features

Benefit of virtualization allows you to utilize advanced storage features like replication, caching, and tiering. Standardizing these practices across all systems enables you to deliver the functionalities to systems that lack them.

Improved Data Security

Increased data security is vital in today’s world, where cyber threats are overly sophisticated. Storage virtualization allows retrieving data from different locations to avert IT disasters


Additional benefit of virtualization storage is allowing to scale up or down your storage. You can easily feed data to the virtual pool of storage unlike on hardware devices.

Easier Data Retrieval

With virtual storage, you can easily retrieve data. Since it pools data from multiple physical storage devices, accessing data becomes simple. You don’t have to open multiple storage devices to retrieve each piece of data.

Disadvantages of Storage Virtualization

While storage virtualization provides easier data management, among other benefits, it also has some downsides. These include:

Increased Traffic in the Storage Area Network

You may encounter low performance if you have high traffic in the SAN.  This makes Storage Area Networks not ideal for data extensive applications.

Shared Environment May Lead to Data Compromise

Since the storage area network operates in a shared environment, there is always a risk of data leaking.

Examples of Storage Virtualization

In storage virtualization, you pool multiple physical disks together to create virtual storage blocks. Examples of storage virtualization include:

  • Logical Unit Number (LUN). LUN is a unique number used to identify a logical unit for computer storage. It is used to designate one or more virtual storage devices that execute I/O commands with a host computer. A LUN is addressed by SCSI protocols.
  • RAID groups. RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is a storage technology that features a configuration of multiple hard drives to work as a single computer system.
  • Logical Volume (LV). A Logical Volume is a practice of combining multiple disk partitions or hard drives into a single volume group (VG).

Thank you for reading until the very end. It is time to conclude article blog Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing – How it Works (with Examples / Use Cases). 

Storage Virtualization in Cloud Computing – How it Works Conclusion

There you have a comprehensive guide to storage virtualization. As mentioned above, storage virtualization is all about pooling data from multiple physical storage devices using nodes for easier management and monitoring. You can use any of the above virtualization methods depending on the data you are handling.

At Cloud Infrastructure Services, we provide seamless storage management to help you handle data safely. Contact us today to discuss how we can help simplify your company’s data management.

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Avatar for Dennis Muvaa
Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is an expert content writer and SEO strategist in cloud technologies such as AWS, Azure, and GCP. He's also experienced in cybersecurity, big data, and AI.

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