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Data storage products take center stage at VMworld

A roundup of product announcements at VMware's annual VMworld conference from data storage vendors looking to take advantage of the server virtualization craze.

VMware Inc. kicked off its annual VMworld conference in San Francisco yesterday, and so far the news is that this year's show is less focused on server virtualization, per se and concentrated more on the IT products that revolve around virtualization, especially data storage products.

"The significance of this event is that the market has finally understood that it's about more than virtualization," said Frank Gillett, vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research Inc., just after arriving at the show Monday. "You can hear the gears turning from 'How do I virtualize servers?' to 'How do I change the entire infrastructure based on what virtual servers can do'?"

Server virtualization's close connection to networked storage has been well documented this year. Since VMware added support for iSCSI SANs in VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) just under a year ago, the adoption of iSCSI storage has exploded. According to the latest IDC numbers, iSCSI storage revenue leaped 57% in the second quarter of 2007 alone. Some storage users are also encountering side effects from server virtualization, from over allocation of storage resources to performance impacts on their disk arrays.

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Here at VMworld to address all of the above, and capitalize on it, are the storage vendors.

VMware is announcing its own storage-related product update, or, rather, plans for a product update that will add support for replication and disaster recovery. The VMware Site Recovery Manager will help users automate the disaster recovery checklists that they usually keep on paper and check off manually, according to Jon Bock, VMware's senior manager of product marketing.

Site Recovery Manager will also help users figure out how storage and server resources correspond between primary and secondary sites, alerting administrators to inconsistencies between storage and servers that can cause disaster recovery plans to fail. VMware also said it is working with its storage partners to integrate Site Recovery Manager with array-based replication products from EMC Corp., EqualLogic Inc., Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), IBM, Lefthand Networks Inc. and Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp).

VMware could very well add its own host-based replication to its own software, according to Gillett, but probably won't, since host-based replication within ESX Server would put VMware in competition with array vendors. "Virtualization is so popular right now that they don't want to do anything that could slow adoption," Gillett said. "Making users sort out the hassle of different replication offerings between their storage vendors and VMware is one of the quickest ways they could stall sales."

There's little in the way of actual software being delivered at this point -- beta tests won't start until later this quarter, Bock said, and the product won't ship until the first half of 2008 at the earliest. However, Gillett said that VMware is probably trying to get out ahead of Microsoft's planned hypervisor release in the second half of 2008.

In the meantime, VizionCore Inc., which has based many of its products around filling gaps in what's available from VMware, has announced that version 3.2 of its vRanger backup software will now support physical-to-virtual replication to secondary sites, as well as version 2.1 of its vReplicator software, which now offers support for failover, DR testing, boosted replication speeds and a GUI that guides users step by step through failover and failback. VizionCore and data deduplication vendor Data Domain Inc. also announced a joint marketing and sales agreement that will pair vRanger and vReplicator with Data Domain's storage boxes.

Back on the storage side, Emulex Corp. and Cisco Communications Systems Inc. jointly unveiled at the show an offering that combines Emulex's virtual host bus adapters (HBA) with Cisco's virtual SANs (V-SAN), allowing virtual servers to have dedicated hardware resources, from HBAs to SAN fabric zones, connecting them to storage systems.

Emulex's Virtual HBA product has been on the market since November, but Cisco said this is the first time the V-SAN feature in its switches will support zoning for virtual machines. "Until recently, the zone in a Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN) was based on the worldwide name belonging to the HBA," said Deepak Munjao, senior marketing manager for data center solutions for Cisco. The Emulex product uses N port ID virtualization (NPIV) within the HBA to give different addresses to each partition of the hardware, which is the feature Cisco integrated to get its fabric zones to see a partitioned HBA.

Virtual appliances

VMware has been encouraging software vendors to port applications to its virtual servers through its Certified Virtual Appliance Program. So far, FalconStor Software Inc., EMC subsidiary Avamar Technologies and LeftHand have announced virtual appliances. This week they are being joined by two more storage vendors, DataCore Software Corp. and Azaleos Corp.

At VMworld, DataCore announced that its storage virtualization and SAN management software can now be run as virtual servers on VMware, as well as virtual servers from XenSource Inc., Microsoft and Virtual Iron Software Inc. Azaleos Corp., a managed service provider for email, said it will be offering its virtual appliance as a service to interested subscribers.

Virtual Appliances certified with VMware will be made available for free trial download on VMware's Web ite.

Other product updates and certifications

StorServer Inc. released a software agent that can link VMware's Consolidated Backup and IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) backup software. The company views the agent as an alternative to pre and post-processing integration scripts required by VMware's own TSM agent.

Symantec Corp. announced that its Veritas Cluster Server product, which provides failover between servers attached to shared storage, will now support virtual servers.

Finally, agami Systems announced today that the agami Information Server 3000 and 6000 series have been certified for VMware ESX Server, along with the recently released AIS1006 iSCSI SAN.

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