Virtual Storage: Definition, Advantages, and a Comprehensive Guide

Virtual storage refers to multiple physical storage devices pooled together into a single storage device like a storage area network (SAN). Storage virtualization software is used to create virtual storage from inexpensive commodity hardware while storage controllers are used to manage the combined space from the different physical storage devices on the network. This article discusses how virtual storage works, its advantages, and its differences from cloud storage. It also details the role of virtual storage in edge computing and how virtual storage solutions work with Parallels® Remote Application Server (RAS).

Virtual Storage Basics

Prior to the advent of virtualization, the typical server hosted a single application. If you had multiple applications, you invested in servers for hosting each application. For example, you might have had separate print and email servers. This meant that datacenters contained large amounts of physical hardware and required substantial cost investments.

Then IBM started virtualizing mainframe computers, and soon VMware brought virtualization to x86 servers. Desktop and application virtualization came soon thereafter.

VMware introduced the concept of a hypervisor layer, which allowed components such as CPUs, memory, and hard disks to be virtualized. Chunks of these resources could then be assigned to multiple virtual machines (VMs) running on the same physical hardware. Thus, running multiple applications in a single server became possible.

The growing number of business applications in the enterprise also meant it needed more storage space. The increased space requirements led to the introduction of more advanced storage hardware in the form of SANs and network-attached storage (NAS) devices.

Virtual storage soon became possible, as the concept of virtualization soon extended to physical storage. Before long, it became possible to define virtual SANs on the same hardware running the hypervisor. Networks also became virtualized. All these developments helped bring down the cost of datacenter setup.

Virtual Storage Advantages

Virtual storage has several advantages over other forms of storage, including the following:

Virtual Storage vs Cloud Storage

Since they both abstract and pool resources together, it is easy to confuse virtual storage with cloud storage. It is essential to know their differences so that you can distinguish them from each other.

In virtual storage, available storage space in physical hardware is combined into software-defined storage accessible from any end-user device. While it appears as if a single physical storage network exists in the environment, there are really several physical hardware hosting the available space, with storage virtualization technology being used to pool these resources together, accounting for the term “virtual storage.” When combined with VMs, hypervisors residing in the physical hardware take care of allotting storage space in the network to each VM, aside from being used to allot other shared resources in the environment, e.g., processing power and memory.

Thus, virtualization technology lets you create multiple environments from one or more physical systems. It also allows you to allot resources to these environments so that they can fulfill your specific use cases.

On the other hand, cloud storage refers to how your data is stored in virtual, software-based pools based on the cloud. The actual storage may span across several physical servers in one or more datacenters owned by a cloud service provider responsible for ensuring access to and the upkeep of your data. These datacenters can be anywhere. You can access your data through services available from your provider, or by using your own software, which may be integrated with the provider’s application programming interfaces (APIs). Cloud desktop storage, cloud storage gateways, and web-based content management systems may also be available for accessing your data.

Cloud computing is said to exist when you use any combination of bare-metal, virtualization, and container software to define resources across the network. Windows, Linux, or any operating system (OS) preferred by the provider can power cloud computing. Multiple public or private clouds, and even combinations, or hybrids, of these two types of clouds, can comprise a cloud environment.

While virtualization can power cloud computing, its capabilities are limited compared to the latter. Cloud computing comprises the whole gamut of virtualization and more—cloud service providers utilize technologies other than virtualization to tailor-fit their services to their customers’ needs.

Virtual Storage and Edge Computing

Sites outside the reach of your traditional datacenter or cloud infrastructure are said to be on the edge of your network. Thus, edge computing refers to a decentralized type of IT infrastructure where processing is done near these sites, instead of in the datacenter or the cloud. Branch and remote offices, manufacturing plants, and retail stores are some examples of environments that can benefit from edge computing.

Traditional IT infrastructure requires substantial investment in network bandwidth and physical hardware. In the cloud, the responsibility for managing the infrastructure, including maintaining the network and hardware, falls on the provider. Still, to allow your users from sites far away from your servers in the datacenter and the cloud, you must ensure that the cloud provider’s infrastructure has capable bandwidth and hardware.

In edge computing, the infrastructure is built around servers near the edge of your network. Instead of pushing the data to traditional datacenters or the cloud, computing and storage resources are attached to the servers, allowing for faster processing since the data does not need to travel far from your users.

Using software installed on the edge servers together with virtualization technology and software-defined storage, edge computing ensures high availability through shared storage such as virtual SANs. Thus, virtual storage is essential in edge computing since it ensures user productivity and customer satisfaction.

Moreover, edge computing requires cheaper hardware than those found normally in datacenters, which must meet minimum standards to mitigate against latency, aside from requiring adequate bandwidth. It also allows sites to operate independently from each other, allowing your organization to keep running even when disaster hits your datacenter or your cloud goes down.

Virtual Storage Solutions with Parallels RAS

Parallels RAS is a remote working solution that allows secure access to virtual desktops and applications from any endpoint device. The lightweight Parallels Client that comes with the platform supports devices running Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS/iPadOS, and Chrome OS, as well as any compatible HTML5 browser.

Parallels RAS enhances data security by limiting access based on user and group permissions, devices, and locations, and supporting multi-factor authentication (MFA) and Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2 encryption. Its out-of-the-box auto-provisioning and auto-scaling capabilities allow easy deployment and maintenance of your IT infrastructure.

Parallels RAS provides a central console for managing your workloads and resources, and it features different preconfigured optimizations for Azure Virtual Desktop, Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH), and virtual desktop integration (VDI). It is compatible with Windows Server 2008 and up, and supports all major hypervisors, including Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESXi, Nutanix Acropolis (AHV), and Scale Computing HC3.

Using VM templates customized to meet your business requirements, you can deploy virtual desktops and applications across your organization in no time at all, using any combination of RDSH, VDI, hypervisors, hyperconverged systems, and public and private clouds. This comprehensive support makes Parallels RAS ideal for use in virtual datacenters, which brings the many benefits of virtualization to traditional datacenters via virtual computing, storage, and network clusters.

Want to see how you can use Parallels RAS as a secure remote working solution using your preferred virtual storage solution?

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