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Virsto sets sites on improving VMware storage performance

Virsto launches Virsto for vSphere to improve VMware storage performance, two years after it launched with a similar product for Micrsoft Hyper-V.

Two years after launching Virsto for Hyper-V, Virsto Software Corp. is ready to take on VMware storage performance with Virsto for vSphere. Virsto today added VMware support to its storage virtualization software for virtual server environments and upgraded its Hyper-V application with greater integration with Microsoft applications.

Virsto is one of the vendors that uses the “storage hypervisor” tag for its software, which is designed to improve the performance of storage used with virtual servers. Virsto claims it can improve virtual machine I/O performance by 10 times and can nearly double storage utilization in some cases.

Virsto for vSphere supports vSphere 4.1 and is integrated with VMware vCenter and View Manager. Virsto’s management features include RapidSnaps writable clones and snapshots for provisioning and backing up storage, Rapid Provisioning Wizards for VMware View 4.5 and Citrix XenDesktop 5 virtual desktop applications, and support for four storage tiers. It also supports virtual machine storage self-provisioning, automated storage space reclamation and thin provisioning.

Virsto for Hyper-V 2.0 includes better integration with Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager (VMM), Microsoft DPM and Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS).

Both versions of Virsto software costs $15,000 per terabyte managed.

Despite VMware’s dominant market share, Virsto CEO Mark Davis said Virsto supported Hyper-V first because it was more difficult to integrate with VMware’s APIs and hypervisors when Virsto first launched. He said VMware’s vStorage APIs and support for NFS allows Virsto to integrate without having to use non-public APIs.

“We’re not abandoning Hyper-V,” he said. “But clearly VMware is the bigger opportunity. That’s also where the bigger implementations are. The software we built works great with a couple of servers, but it really shines when used at large scale.”

Mark Bowker, Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst, said Virsto is seeking to solve a big problem for server virtualization customers.

“It’s no secret that storage is the biggest challenge in a virtual environment,” Bowker said. “Storage is VMware’s No. 1 support call issue. Virsto snaps into customers’ existing architecture, and can address storage contention issues.”

Bowker said that adding VMware support should significantly increase Virsto’s market presence. “You almost never find a customer not doing server virtualization, so this is an opportunity for them to go in to any customer now,” he said.

Kyle Murley, head of the server, database and Web services team for the San Diego State University Library and Information Access group, said he’s counting on Virsto for vSphere to help him expand his virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Murley said his department has 60 virtual servers and 70 virtual desktops. He’s hoping to expand to 150 virtual desktops by March, and his long-term roadmap calls for at least 300.

“Storage has been the limiting factor,” he said. “We’ve invested in servers, hardware, training. With Virsto now we can improve and use our storage to maximum utilization.”

Murley said he doesn’t have a dedicated storage team and doesn’t want to introduce new storage elements. He wants to stick with his Dell EqualLogic iSCSI SAN platform without having to add Fibre Channel storage or a dedicated appliance to deal only with VDI storage. He said he expects his two EqualLogic storage arrays to support 150 virtual desktops, and he will probably add an EqualLogic array to go beyond that.

Murley was an early beta tester of Virsto for VMware and has been running the software in production since August. He said his storage IOPS performance has increased more than nine times in a variety of scenarios.

Murley said he considered storage virtualization software from DataCore  and StorMagic before picking Virsto. He said he liked Virsto’s auto-tiering and considered its software easier to provision and better integrated with the server hypervisor than that of its competitors.

He said he would welcome better integration with APIs for storage arrays down the road, “where it can hook into some of those hardware-assisted features.”

What’s a storage hypervisor?

Virsto is among a handful of storage virtualization vendors referring to their software as a “storage hypervisor.” This is less of a technical term than a marketing one that tries to piggyback on the success of server virtualization.

“We think of a storage hypervisor as doing for storage what VMware had done for the server,” Virsto CEO Davis said. “It’s a pretty broad term. A lot of people can use it, and we all mean something different. Customers say it’s a term they never heard before, but they instantly know what we mean.”

San Diego State’s Murley said it worked on him. “That was a new one for me,” he said. “It’s a good story for them. It gets them in the door.”

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