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Solution providers that have been working with server virtualization and storage virtualization are starting to see the benefits of yet another type of virtualization that ties the two together: virtualized storage appliances.
Unlike physical appliances, which include an application and the operating system installed on a specific piece of server hardware, virtual appliances are prebuilt, preconfigured software bundles that include the application and operating system and are designed to be downloaded onto a virtual machine. This lets ISVs configure and harden their applications without regard to the underlying hardware.
Virtualized storage appliances have become available from a variety of vendors, most of which make them available for downloads into virtual machines built using VMware's ESX Server application. VMware hosts a site from which the majority of those appliances can be downloaded.
The move to adopt virtualized storage appliances in lieu of hardware appliance counterparts is driven by customers who see the benefits of virtualization and are looking to embrace it as quickly as possible, said Steve Bishop, CTO of VeriStor Systems, an Atlanta-based storage solution provider.
"Savvy customers with virtualized environments are looking to virtualize everything they can," Bishop said. "They look at commodity appliances, and think there is a better way to do it."
For many of those customers, there is. Removing the hardware component and turning a storage appliance into code that can be downloaded into a virtual machine cuts the cost of the storage appliance and makes it easier to quickly deploy and redeploy for testing and evaluation purposes.
However, there is a serious trade-off: performance. Virtual storage appliances offer noticeably lower performance than similar hardware-based appliances. But for small or midsize customers or remote offices, where performance requirements may not be an issue, the trade-off may be moot.