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Jockeying for virtualization leadership

Who are the present storage virtualization leaders? One analyst narrows the field down to four.

Jockeying for virtualization leadership
By Alan Earls

In this penny-pinching market, storage pros are anxious to demonstrate that they know how to make a SAN pay for itself. They also know that the systems they already have are incredibly expensive because they're operating at just 30 to 50 percent of capacity. That's according to a Gartner Group estimate.

Often the shortfall can be traced to incompatibility of hardware and software. So when a department needs more storage, it runs out and buys another machine.

Virtualization, which has the potential to solve the problem, has become legitimate in the past six months, endorsed by everyone from Sun and IBM to EMC. But who really "has" virtualization? At this point, only a handful of vendors, according to one industry analyst.

"The external storage virtualization market consists of four players," says Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, Inc. Milford, Mass. The four, according to Duplessie, are DataCore, StorageApps, FalconStor and StoreAge.

DataCore is the oldest, Duplessie notes, and StorageApps is its most direct competitor, as they, like DataCore provide an application that executes on an NT box. "Now that StorageApps is [owned by] HP, they clearly are the leader by default," says Duplessie, meaning they have the most sales people and resources to push virtualization to market even though DataCore claims it has impressive real-world applications. "Cisco has invested in StoreAge, and that makes them a legitimate contender, too," says Duplessie.

For its part, FalconStor has been busy setting up alliances and getting awards at tradeshows and kudos from analysts.

Finally, Duplessie dismisses Compaq's VersaStor -- a virtualization wannabee -- as dead-on-arrival now that HP has agreed to acquire the company.

But virtualization is new and evolving rapidly. Players may change. For now, customers navigating the virtualization waters need to look at question such as:
* To what extent do product offerings really work with other vendors? products?
* What capabilities will improve performance and simplify management?
* What virtualization features are most likely to drive ROI on a SAN?

"I still love the [virtualization] space, but it's very early," says Duplessie. "We think that since management is clearly the number one problem users face, virtualization will become increasingly more popular over the next year," he adds.

About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer residing in Franklin, Mass.

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