IT departments are under pressure to be a focal part of their company’s digital transformation efforts – but it is crucial that they balance their burning desire to change with the need to act on the daily challenges they are confronted with right now. 

Instead, enterprises should be focusing their efforts on two things: moving to more efficient infrastructure due to shrinking or static budgets, and ensuring every aspect of their IT is secure and always ‘on’. At the same time, these efforts must help deliver cutting-edge services for the business’s data and applications that allow them to differentiate and compete in the market.

It is this context that helps to explain why the virtual storage market is so ripe. Gartner predicts that by 2019, approximately 30% of the global storage array capacity installed in enterprise data centers will be deployed with software-defined storage (SDS) or hyper-converged integrated system architectures based on x86 hardware systems. This is a huge leap from the less than 5% that it is today. VMware vSAN is proving to be a popular choice for this shift – with over 7,000 customers having adopted our virtual storage software solution already.

What does all this mean for me? The answer to that is simple. New virtual storage features accelerate the modernization of data center infrastructure by addressing three key IT needs: higher security, lower cost, and faster performance, something I would like to explore further in this piece.


Addressing the need for native security and availability

It is this context that helps to explain why, just this month, we have strengthened our virtual storage family with the introduction of vSAN 6.6. The latest update enables enterprises to evolve without having to worry about any data security risks. vSAN excels at providing businesses with an efficient, non-disruptive path to a more secure infrastructure that is highly available for their business-critical data.

Many organizations view security as a top priority. vSAN 6.6 introduces the industry’s first native data-at-rest encryption solution built for hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI)—helping further accelerate the adoption of virtual storage. By encrypting data that is stored on the virtual layer, it protects against unwanted access to data and simplifies key management. This means that customers can move away from hardware vendors’ self-encrypting drives that leave them tied to limited options with hefty premiums, as virtual storage encryption is completely hardware-agnostic. Virtual storage delivers security with great simplicity and cost savings.


Delivering improved business continuity with stretch clustering

Businesses are tasked with having to always be ‘on’ and they need protection to be able to deliver that, another factor which explains why virtual storage is such an attractive proposition. Solutions like this introduce a highly available management stack, allowing monitoring and management, even in the rare scenario of the management server being unavailable.

The ‘always-on’ proposition is so critical that customers increasingly demand enhanced stretched clustering capabilities that provide flexibility and protection without breaking their budget. Customers with two relatively close physical locations can stretch their data center across the two. If one physical location becomes unavailable, the virtual storage layer can take care of it because the data in the second site would carry on. Software-defined storage removes the need to worry about the back-up copy in the first site because by stretching the cluster, it intelligently keeps the back-up data at the site that is working.

New Enhanced Stretched Clusters in vSAN 6.6 includes local protection, delivering resiliency against both site failures and local component failures. With a comprehensive stretched cluster solution, customers can confidently extend the cost and simplicity benefits of HCI to solve disaster recovery and business continuity needs.

Fundamentally, it’s about taking security very seriously, so that if something goes wrong, such as the VM or host failing, the application is not impacted. Digital transformation is all about being able to provide the end user with the best experience possible, and that means the business needs to be ‘on’ at all times.


Enhancing data center performance with optimized flash performance

A key challenge for enterprises is to deliver greater efficiencies both in terms of resources and staff, and there are a number of ways that virtual storage can help here. The optimal solution delivers specific capabilities to monitor, manage and troubleshoot across the entire end-to-end infrastructure, thus increasing IT efficiency.

Intelligent cloud-based analytics provides custom, real-time advice directly to keep the virtual storage infrastructure running in in an optimal state – something that can dramatically reduce operational costs by saving both administration and monitoring time. For example, if a configuration issue is found, the customer can be notified in real-time with remediation recommendations.

Meanwhile, optimized algorithms and day 0 support of the latest flash technologies can deliver significantly greater performance of virtualized all-flash storage.


Software-defining what the digital future looks like

Enterprises aren’t just looking to overcome the obstacles they face today – they need to build for a digital future, and that is again where software-defined storage comes in. With virtual storage, customers can prepare for any workload including data center applications, cloud native applications and containers. A major perk of vSAN is how it supports a hybrid cloud environment with a common enterprise storage platform from on-premise deployments to public cloud, with a consistent experience across both.


Cache your concerns

Digital transformation is hard enough without having to think about managing security threats, stretched resources and slow responsiveness. Virtual storage solutions are quickly proving themselves as a way of helping to tackle these issues head on—delivering modern IT infrastructure with native HCI security, lower cost of ownership, and optimized flash performance for next generation workloads.

All of this equips IT departments with the foundation to succeed in the future too – meaning virtual storage can be the backbone of your business’ digital transformation.