Feature

Virtualization Inside!

Users attracted by the promise of virtualization - but daunted by its potential complexity - can now get some of the benefits without getting their hands dirty. Several storage hardware start-ups are including a virtualization layer that provides single system image within the confines of their box, essentially transparent to users. This approach won't do anything for your existing storage, but it does promise simpler management as you add capacity.

Take Zambeel, Fremont, CA, for example, and its recently announced Aztera, a NAS device that "provides massive scalability in both capacity and performance, while maintaining a single system management view," the company says.

Aztera derives these capabilities from its software - clustering, operating system support, policy-based management, and yes, virtualization - and not hardware, which consists of generic commercial off-the-shelf components such as Intel CPU blades, a Gigabit Ethernet switching fabric, and ATA disk drives.

There are different ways to do virtualization within a box. LeftHand Networks, with its IP-based NSM100, virtualizes data on its disk at the block rather than file level, says Bill Chambers, president and CEO. That way, "we can support both [block-oriented] Oracle and MS Exchange, as well as more static [file-based] data," Chambers says.

Broadband Storage, another start-up which recently emerged from stealth mode, is using virtualization at the core of its Scalable

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Unified Storage architecture, alongside a distributed SAN file system. Together, these two technologies will enable an array that provides automatic and non-disruptive RAID-level scalability, and allow users to migrate from DAS to SAN topology within the same array.

That's important because 67% of all storage dollars and 76% of capacity still go to DAS configurations, points out Mark Pollard, Broadband Storage vice president of marketing. A virtualization layer under the hood can insulate DAS users who might want to migrate to a SAN, but have been put off by that "scary, complex world."

This was first published in August 2002

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