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User refuses to be IBM virtualization guinea pig

Despite IBM's effort to convince its customers its software can virtualize EMC storage, one user is adamant he can't afford to take that risk.

NEW YORK—IBM launched the latest version of its TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller this week which it claims can manage EMC Corp.'s storage arrays just as well as it can the Enterprise Storage Server or Shark. But at least one user spoke with here at the Storage Decisions conference isn't prepared to be a test bed for IBM's claims of heterogeneous storage management.

Joel Kumabe has both IBM Shark and EMC Clariion storage arrays in his IT shop at the Hawaii Medical Service Association, a Honolulu-based affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield. As he nears the end of lease on his IBM storage, Kumabe, a technical services manager, is looking to replace his entire IT infrastructure, but despite IBM's advertised benefits for the SAN Volume Controller, he's wary of being a test case.

"I don't want to be the guinea pig, especially when it comes to storage," Kumabe said. He said IBM could not provide him with other end users who have tested the Controller, something he said has a "huge impact" on his evaluation process.

The ultimate goal of Big Blue's TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller is to provide a common virtualization tool for storage administrators who manage heterogeneous servers and storage environments, according to Bruce Hillsberg, director storage software strategy for IBM. This means instead of using EMC's SRDF software for synchronous replication, IBM claims SAN Volume Controller lets users use PPRC (peer-to-peer remote copy) to perform the same function on a Symmetrix array.

But EMC doesn't necessarily agree that IBM's SAN Volume Controller can "seamlessly" manage Symmetrix and Clariion. EMC spokesperson Dave Farmer said users managing EMC arrays with other vendors' tools will often endure a performance hit in the process. A prospect which Farmer says isn't in the best interests of the end user. "In contrast to [IBM's] announcement, customers are adopting scalable storage virtualization technology that also preserves the inherent performance, availability and functionality of their individual storage systems," Farmer said.

IBM claims the SAN Volume Controller Version 1.2 has the ability to manage EMC's Clariion and Symmetrix lines of storage systems as well as HDS Lightning and new models of HDS Thunder. IBM has also expanded the operating systems supported by SAN Volume Controller to include Windows 2003, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Advanced Server 3.0, Solaris 9 and VMware ESX 2.1.

IBM said the SAN Volume Controller, with a base configuration price of $60,000, integrates virtualization software with IBM eServer xSeries servers running an operating environment based on a Linux 2.4 kernel.


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