Islands of Virtualization


As SANs became real world over the past few years, vendors promised a storage nirvana of ubiquitous networks of storage available to every system on the network. Virtualization software vendors are spinning a similar tale of virtualized pools of resources that can be allocated on demand to any server. Just as the real world deployed SANs as application-focused islands, it is likely that end users will deploy virtualization software in application- and project-centric islands. The challenge for storage virtualization vendors today is how to bridge the gap between a great strategy and story, and persuading end users to actually deploy the software.

After a virtualization vendor has recommended storage virtualization to your client, the follow-up conversation might go something like this: "So what you're saying is you want me to take down all my storage, unhook and re-cable my 10 terabyte SAN, virtualize all of my data, then add another layer of hardware in between my SAN and my servers to make this all happen?" Most clients cannot visualize how virtualization could help because the effort involved to move to a virtualization paradigm is too disruptive and risky.

To achieve deployment of storage virtualization software, solution providers and vendors must focus on tactics , not strategy , to find opportunities for large organizations to adopt virtualization. Good, old-fashioned selling strategy must take over to find the points within the enterprise where storage virtualization can gain entry.

New Application Deployments

New application deployments are perfect to deploy virtualization software. When deploying new enterprise applications, storage and backup requirements have moved from being an afterthought to a place at the top of the list. The enterprise can no longer afford to wait to address capacity, functionality and backup as the application goes into production. Storage platforms for applications like SAP or PeopleSoft now go through the same testing, development and production cycle as the application itself. Each new deployment represents an opportunity for a new vendor to gain a storage footprint. Since new infrastructure can be built from the ground up with virtualization in mind, the shift in paradigm to employing virtualization is less costly and disruptive. End users who deploy virtualization associated with a particular project are likely to see the benefits and start using virtualization in other areas of the enterprise. So what does this mean? Look for new application deployments and pitch virtualization as storage strategies to add unique value to the project.

Testing and Development Labs

Many large enterprise customers have built testing and development labs for storage. Storage has become so critical and so complex that end users can no longer afford to deploy technology they have not spent time testing. In addition, these labs allow IT staff to train on the new technology and develop storage management procedures before the technology goes into production. While much of this equipment goes into these labs at no charge or at steep vendor discounts, solution providers can still play a role. As customer advocates, solution providers can sponsor the project and offer to assist clients in getting the technology up and running. Getting new technology into these labs is a critical step in the adoption of the virtualization paradigm throughout the rest of the enterprise.

Build a Complete Solution

When your clients come to you to discuss the next couple of terabytes of storage to be deployed, give them one option for a traditional SAN deployment and one option for virtualized storage. By tying the virtualization software to a total solution you may avoid some of the complex questions around latency, re-cabling, in-band vs. out-of-band , all of the things that tend to lead end users to lose interest in virtualization. By presenting clients with two options, you allow the clients to make a choice between two different ways of buying storage, without asking them to re-architect their current storage strategy. Linking virtualization to a specific project is an effective way to get the technology in the door.

Virtualization is likely to be deployed in application-focused islands. This may be the best way to get virtualization adopted by clients. Savvy solution providers who focus on tactical real-world scenarios to deploy virtualization will not only differentiate themselves in the market, but also accelerate the adoption of this revolutionary technology.

Storage Management: It's All About Strategy
Storage Management Software -- Building Blocks for the Storage Utility
Will Software Save the SSPs?
Islands of Virtualization
Storage Management Certifications -- Walking the Walk
Selling Enterprise Storage Management Software
Case Study -- A New Breed of SSP
It's All About ROI