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Stand-Alone Storage Virtualization

3:00 PM -- Stand-alone storage virtualization is the concept of providing traditional storage services without the requirement to buy the storage. The basic concept is that you standardize on the services, not on the physical storage hardware. Every time I see this drawn up on my white board and presented to me, it makes perfect sense. But why hasn't caught on more than it has thus far?

From an architecture standpoint, this functionality can be integrated into the switch/director, or an appliance can be embedded into the SAN fabric. The storage services are typically volume management, volume provisioning, snapshots, replication, and a host of other services. These services can be applied equally across a variety of hardware platforms.

While there were some young upstarts in the environment, companies like IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI), Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) , EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), and NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) all offer some form of this capability now. Even the upstarts have been around long enough to be considered safe -- FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC) and DataCore Software Corp. , for example. Most of the inroads these systems have made tend to be for a specific capability. Data migration -- seamlessly and quickly moving from one storage hardware platform to another -- seems to be the leading use case.

Yet again, its market share has stayed relatively small. While the quality of the storage services and the usability of the interfaces tend to be more than adequate, the key challenge is the complexity -- either implied or real -- involved in integrating all this disparate physical storage hardware into the new storage services device. In addition, some of the solutions are software only, so that requires loading the software onto your own hardware to get it up and running.

There is also the issue of supportability. If there is a failure, whose fault is it? At the end of the day, that one-throat-to-choke concept sounds pretty good if your systems are down.

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