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There are a lot of opportunities for solution providers in storage virtualization, said David Stone, vice president of business development at Solutions-II, an Englewood, Colo.-based solution provider that works with IBM's SAN Volume Controller virtualization technology.
"Customers are consuming a lot of storage and have complex environments," Stone said. "Storage virtualization is something that is in the early stage of adoption, but it will be mainstream in the near future."
Enterprises looking to consolidate the cost and complexity of their server environments have taken the concept of server virtualization to heart, and they are now looking to apply the same concept to their storage environments. Storage virtualization is aimed at consolidating the capacity of storage arrays from multiple vendors into a single pool of storage that can be allocated and de-allocated as needed.
Virtualization helps cut the complexity of storage via a simplified management interface that handles all the tasks that might otherwise require multiple tools from the various vendors. These include helping ease the migration of a customer's data when purchasing or leasing new equipment, especially if that migration is to a new vendor's equipment.
While not as widespread as server virtualization, storage virtualization has faster growth potential. In a survey conducted late last year by Forrester Research, about 21 percent of North American enterprises have already adopted storage virtualization, while 17 percent plan to adopt it this year and 18 percent next year.
Virtualization in the enterprise comes in two major flavors: appliance-like hardware implementations and software-based implementations.
On the hardware side are products like the TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform (USP) and Network Storage Controller from Hitachi Data Systems; the SAN Volume Controller, or SVC, from IBM; technologies for virtualizing storage within an array and within a grid system from Hewlett-Packard; and EMC's Invista, which was released in December 2005 but has yet to become available to the channel.
HP, Palo Alto, Calif., also carries an OEM version of HDS' USP in its enterprise-class XP line, as well as a virtualization front-end appliance made specifically for the company by HDS.
On the software side are technologies from smaller storage vendors, including the IPStor software from Melville, N.Y.-based FalconStor and the SANmelody software from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based DataCore Software.
The primary difference between hardware and software solutions, Stone said, is not so much performance as in the price and the vendor name. The software solutions come mainly from smaller companies, and are often embedded in or relabeled as other vendors' solutions, Stone said.
"We do IBM's SAN Volume Controller because, No. 1, it's IBM, and No. 2, it is a fully integrated product. It's an appliance. Most customers want to reduce complexity. HDS is a good product. HP's EVA for the midrange is a good product. We'll see the major players take this space, with the others getting incorporated in other companies' products."
Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi, a Cleveland-based solution provider, is on the other hand a big fan of software-based appliance solutions such as FalconStor's IPStor because it comes from a company with no hardware sales agenda.