A storage provider is a software component that is either offered by VMware or is developed by a third party through the vSphere APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) program. The storage provider can also be called VASA provider. The storage providers integrate with various storage entities that include external physical storage and storage abstractions, such as Virtual SAN and Virtual Volumes. Storage providers can also support software solutions, for example, I/O filters.
Generally, vCenter Server and ESXi use the storage providers to obtain information about storage configuration, status, and storage data services offered in your environment. This information appears in the vSphere Web Client. The information helps you to make appropriate decisions about virtual machine placement, to set storage requirements, and to monitor your storage environment.
Storage providers that manage arrays and storage abstractions, are called persistence storage providers. Providers that support Virtual Volumes or Virtual SAN belong to this category. In addition to storage, persistence providers can provider other data services, such as replication.
Another category of providers is I/O filter storage providers, or data service providers. These providers offer data services that include host based caching, compression, and encryption.
Built-in storage providers typically do not require registration. For example, the storage providers that support I/O filters become registered automatically.
When a third party offers a storage provider, you typically must register the provider. An example of such a provider is the Virtual Volumes provider. You use the vSphere Web Client to register and manage each storage provider component.
The following graphic illustrates how different types of storage providers facilitate communication between vCenter Server and ESXi and other components of your storage environment, such as storage arrays, Virtual Volumes storage, and I/O filters.