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The amount of vaporware surrounding storage virtualization is enough to turn anyone into a cynic. DataCore Software Corp., FalconStor Software Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. have offered working storage virtualization as part of their offerings for some time. But overall, the market has been long on claims and promises, but short on actual products from major vendors. Until now.
Storage virtualization consists of a software layer that masks differences in a heterogeneous storage environment through a common interface, a common namespace and common management. It uses filesets to combine storage from different devices into common pools and virtualizes block storage.
"IBM's SAN Volume Controller [SVC] is a good, solid product," says Toigo. The SAN SVC and the SAN File System are part of IBM's Virtualization Engine Suite for Storage. "Everyone has been waiting for this for years, at least since IBM started talking about StorageTank maybe four years ago," says Mike Karp, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, CO. Unlike those who have tried to introduce storage virtualization products previously, IBM seems to understand that virtualization really isn't a product at all, but a capability that enables benefits such as lower TCO and streamlined management, Karp explains. When virtualization is applied to storage, the business payback can be significant.
How hot: was simmering,
now suddenly very hot.
Risk factor: extremely difficult to do, especially in a highly heterogeneous environment.
Buy or pass: Let the early adopters bleed a bit as they smooth out rough edges.
Buy now, pay later?
You can buy products for each of these technologies, but the products are proprietary and many of the vendors are small--a combination that raises the risk level considerably. Although the products promise big returns on investment by offering solutions to nagging problems, you need to weigh the risks with the benefits. The real question: How much of a guinea pig do you want to be?
This was first published in October 2004