Emulex, LSI Team On Out-of-Band Storage Virtualization

The two companies have collaborated on developing an appliance that makes use of Emulex's AV150 intelligent storage processor and LSI's Storage Virtualization Manager application, which LSI got with its November acquisitionof StoreAge Networking Technologies, for out-of-band storage virtualization.

That appliance, the model 765-S Intelligent Services Platform, will be marketed exclusively to solution providers, said Taufik Ma, vice president of marketing for intelligent network products at Emulex.

The 765-S provides a wide range of storage management and virtualization services for use in disaster recovery, data migration, data protection, and storage provisioning, Ma said. It uses a split-path architecture based on Emulex's AV150 platform to do the services with wire-speed performance while remaining transparent to the hosts, he said.

The 765-S is a 1U appliance with four 2-Gbps Fibre channel ports for moving data and two Gbit Ethernet ports for management. It has a bandwidth of up to 1,400 Mbytes per second, and connects to any SAN fabric.

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Because the 765-S needs no software agents, it is suitable for environments where software agents are not accepted, such as VMware and Oracle RAC, Ma said. "For example, VMware's ESX can't be used with software agents," he said. "Also, some clustering applications are not suitable for use with software agents. And software agents are hard to maintain and manage."

The StoreAge SVM software contains the metadata needed to transition the movement of data to several accelerated data paths, Ma said. "As packets of data flow from the server to the array and back, our appliance does the transitions at wire speed," he said.

Keith Norbie, director of the storage division at Nexus Information Systems, a Plymouth, Minn.-based solution provider that provides in-band storage virtualization, said that out-of-band storage virtualization can allow all the storage devices in a SAN to be mapped independently of the virtualization appliance.

"So if you change any part of the switch fabric or the arrays, the changes are made to the infrastructure on-the-fly," Norbie said. "Using out-of-band virtualization, there's no middleman. It's like using Legos -- just snap the parts together, and you get 7x24xforever. Whatever changes you do get mapped automatically, so data migration, data protection, and so on are easy to do."

While Norbie said he sees the advantage of out-of-band virtualization, his company still focuses on in-band virtualization because the market for out-of-band virtualization is still in a wait-and-see mode.

"A lot of money is going to server virtualization, but not a lot is moving to other ventures," Norbie said. "But server virtualization with VMware is starting to add fire to the storage virtualization market."

The big push for out-of-band storage virtualization will come as clients come to the end of the three-year to five-year storage array cycles and look to migrate to new arrays, Norbie said. "A lot of customers will look to out-of-band virtualization, but a lot will scratch their heads about the best way to do it," he said.

David Hill, principal at the Mesabi Group, a Westwood, Mass.-based analyst firm, said that the market for out-of-band storage virtualization, like everything else, takes time to develop.

"It's held back by the ability of people to understand virtualization," Hill said. "Unless they have a burning demand, they will go cautiously. But they will do it."

The 765-S appliances are expected to ship next month with a list price of less than $10,000, Ma said. That's less than half the price of competing storage virtualization solutions from competitors such as IBM, FalconStor, EMC, and QLogic, the latter of which also uses the StoreAge software, he said.

For data replication environments, four units are required to provide redundancy at the primary and the remote sites, Ma said.

Emulex and LSI are working together to market the 765-S solution, and LSI will eventually provide training and certification programs to solution providers, Ma said. It will be available through Info X, a Randolph, NJ-based storage specialty distributor.

The two vendors also unveiled a version of the appliance which does not include the StoreAge software for sales to OEM vendors.