IBM Details Storage Virtualization Appliance

The IBM TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller is an in-line virtualization appliance that allows the pooling of storage across nonlike storage arrays, said Bruce Hillsberg, director of storage software strategy and technology at IBM.

The appliance consists of virtualization software developed by IBM running on one or more pairs of storage nodes, which are 1U-high, two-way IBM xSeries servers with 4 Gbytes of cache and four 2-Gbps Fibre Channel connectors each. A separate xSeries server used as a management console and multipathing software are also included, said Hillsberg.

The SAN Volume Controller currently works under AIX, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX and Windows Advanced Server to pool storage across multiple IBM Shark or FAStT arrays, Hillsberg said. However, it is expected to be gradually enhanced to work with non-IBM arrays over the rest of this year and into the next, he said.

The appliance allows dynamic data migration from one array to another and, in the image mode, allows a data image to be imported from one array into another, said Hillsberg.

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An entry-level configuration that includes one pair of storage nodes is priced at $60,000, said Hillsberg. Additional storage nodes are available at $27,500 per pair, a flash copy addition is available for $20,000 and synchronous peer-to-peer copy is available for $30,000, he said. Software prices depends on how many Tbytes of data are being managed.

The second virtualization tool, the TotalStorage SAN Integration Server, is a "SAN-in-a-can" bundle aimed at easing customer and solution provider transition to virtualized storage, Hillsberg said.

The basic configuration for the bundle includes a pair of SAN Volume Controller nodes with the SAN Volume Controller software, an IBM FAStT600 storage array with 504 Gbytes of raw capacity and 400 Gbytes capacity when configured for RAID-5, two 8-port Brocade Fibre Channel switches, a 24-port Ethernet switch, two UPSes and a 19-inch rack.

The $140,000 price tag includes IBM installation, or the IBM solution provider can do the installation, said Hillsberg. It can scale to up to 100 Tbytes, with 83-Tbytes usable, and will eventually work with non-IBM arrays, he said.

MSI Systems Integrators, an Omaha, Neb.-based IBM solution provider, has been testing IBM's SAN Volume Controller with IBM's FAStT600 and Shark arrays under both AIX and Windows 2000 in customer shops, and has found it to work so far, said Joe Andersen, director of services and technologies at the company.

However, the biggest drawback for utility computing so far is making customers understand the importance of moving the needed technology into the network, said Andersen. "Today . . . customers have all these nice technologies built into the box," he said. "Now we want to bring the technologies, the intelligence, which has only been in the box, and leverage it across everything. Then customers can begin to see the possibilities."

It is not too early to start talking about virtualization and utility computing to customers, Andersen said. "If you talk about products which are new but not ready yet, it is helpful in soliciting information from end users," he said. "You can see what they want to solve with on-demand computing. But on the other hand, if there is no feedback, vendors may not be able to match customer needs."

Andersen said his company will also look closely at the new SAN Integration Server to see how it fits in customer environments. "There may be a fairly quick fit for customers looking to implement their first disaster-recovery solution," he said. "Or we could integrate the SAN Volume Controller into an existing SAN, then use the SAN Integration Server at a remote site where no equipment has been installed."