Insider: Virtualization Needs Standards

Block-level virtualization is ever more popular, but testing remains key to its success

January 21, 2006

3 Min Read
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Block-level storage virtualization (BSV) products spell good news for IT managers wrestling with the skyrocketing cost of storage. But a lack of standards persists, making rigorous testing key to successful deployments.

So-called BSV engines are devices that use virtualization to treat multiple, block-based, heterogeneous storage devices, such as SAN arrays, as a single pool of capacity. After an initial lack of acceptance, driven in part by FUD from established players, these solutions are finally gaining headway in major enterprises, according to the latest Byte and Switch Insider, this sites paid subscription research service.

But standards issues mean caveat emptor when it comes to laying out for one of these solutions. Rigorous pre-implementation testing is critical to getting it right. One customer quoted in the report, Alan Howitson, SAN architect for Fidelity National Financial Inc., urges IT managers to do hands-on trials in an integration lab that completely replicates their environment. “Since there are no formal standards for how a vendor complies at an HBA level, a small tweak can kill you,” he warns.

An industry group called the Storage Performance Council is working on an independent benchmarking test that could help solve the problem of virtualization matchup, although only a handful of vendors have submitted their solutions to SPC.

Perhaps it's no surprise that user interviews conducted for the report make it clear there is plenty of ill will toward vendors that continue to resist standardization.Despite a lack of standards, there is evidence BSVs are proving crucial to firms with capacity and management demands that are spiraling out of control. There is now a solid stable of solutions to choose from, with options and add-ons that organizations can grow into as necessary. Indeed, the large enterprise users interviewed for the report invariably said that their deployments were worth the price, and many products appear to be faring well.

That said, many adopters underwent acid tests to get things going. At the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, for instance, a trial run ended up pulling plugs, running out of memory, and feeding bad data to BSV software.

The report provides an overview of BSV technology and a strategic analysis of the players in this market. A separate Appendix also provides a comprehensive matrix of BSV products.

This month’s Byte and Switch Insider is the first of a two-part series examining the virtualization of today’s heterogenous storage environments. Because block-based (SAN) aggregators and file-based (NAS) aggregators are quite different, this month’s issue covers block storage virtualization engines. Next month’s Byte and Switch Insider will cover file storage virtualization.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and SwitchPublic companies mentioned in this report include:

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC)

  • Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

Private companies mentioned in this report include:

  • Cloverleaf Communications Inc.

  • DataCore Software Corp.

  • Incipient Inc.

  • MaXXan Systems Inc.

  • Sanrad Inc.

  • StoreAge Networking Technologies Ltd.

    Start Your Engines: Block-Level Storage Virtualization is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Byte and Switch Insider, priced at $1,350. Individual reports are available for $900.

    To subscribe, or for more information, please visit:

    To request a free executive summary of the report, or for details on multi-user licensing options, please contact:Jeff Claudino
    Sales Manager
    Insider Research Services
    [email protected]

    For review copies, members of the media may contact:

    Gabriel Brown
    Chief Analyst
    Insider Research Services
    [email protected]

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