McData Gets Virtual Act in Gear

McData partners with StoreAge to get out its first virtualization device

October 31, 2006

4 Min Read
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McData finally rolled out its virtualization device today, launching the first product built on its Application Services Module (ASM) platform.

The McData Virtualizer handles volume management and data migration to help manage storage as pools across arrays. Virtualizer consists of McDatas ASM –- a 24-port, 4-Gbit/s device connecting servers to storage –- and StoreAge Virtualization Manager (SVM) running on a Windows server. The software creates storage pools, provisions logical volumes, and handles snapshots, migration, and replication.

McData is the last of the major switch vendors to get its virtualization product ready, and its launch comes while Brocade is working to close the $713 million acquisition of McData. (See Brocade Bags McData For $713M.) Brocade has pledged to keep all of McData’s shipping products after the deal closes, but the long-term viability of Virtualizer will likely come down to whether customers prefer it or Brocade’s competing product.

McData’s original virtualization strategy called for a blade to plug into its switches, similar to what Cisco does with its Storage Services Module (SSM). Then it switched to an appliance, and the change in plans caused McData to miss the launch of EMC's Invista virtualization product, which was expected to pique interest in switch-based virtualization. (See EMC Unveils Invista.)

Product manager Edgard Capdevielle says McData plans to support Invista and virtualization software from FalconStor on its ASM platform next year. Its roadmap also includes support for virtual tape libraries (VTLs) and continuous data protection (CDP)."Everybody says, 'Why is McData so late with Invista?' " Capdevielle says. "McData's ASM is ready, and has been ready for some time. Some of the applications haven't been ready."

While IBM's network-based SAN Volume Controller (SVC) was launched in 2003, and Hitachi Data Systems' controller-based virtualization in TagmaStore came out in 2004, customers have had to wait for a switch-based enterprise product. (See EMC & IBM in Virtual Skirmish and Hitachi Struts Mr. Universal.)

Incipient last month launched its Network Storage Platform (NSP) software to run on Cisco's MDS 9000 SSM. (See A Baby Step for Storage Virtualization.) Qlogic’s SANbox 8200 also runs SVM, and Brocade offers its open virtualization software as well as Invista and Fujitsu Eternus software on its intelligent switches. (See Fujitsu Tests Virtualization Waters.)

With storage managers hungry for switch-based virtualization still exploring their options, McData's Virtualizer may not be so late after all. (See Virtualization Buyers Keep Exit Open.) It is in limited availability from McData now with pricing starting at $50,000. McData expects to have reseller and OEM partners by the time Virtualizer is generally available in December.

"McData has been talking about a virtualization product for some time –- whether it was a blade, an appliance or whatever," StorageIO Group analyst Greg Schulz says. "But if you’re showing up with a high performance blade or appliance coupled with robust software, you're not late for the game. The game hasn’t started yet."Brocade has said it will keep all of McData's products until 8-Gbit/s Fibre Channel arrives, and then will integrate all of its products into one platform. So McData is pushing as much out as possible before the sale closes. It has launched a VTL and upgraded a bunch of other products since the Brocade deal was announced in August. (See McData Unveils VTL, McData Manages Remotely, McData Updates 2.1, McData Extends Solution, and McData Enhances Ficon.)

But the ASM platform has as good a chance of any McData products at long-term survival. When Brocade announced its intention to buy McData, its executives pointed to virtualization as a McData strength. Brocade is believed to be close to overhauling its competing Fabric Application Manager. Given EMC's slow road with Invista, few Brocade or Cisco intelligent switches are in production yet.

New players and alliances will likely come and go. LSI Logic acquired StoreAge last week to become a virtualization player. (See LSI Annexes StoreAge.) LSI executives say they will maintain StoreAge’s partnerships when the deal closes, but Virtualizer will go from a McData-StoreAge combination to a Brocade-LSI product soon after it becomes generally available.

As for the competition between what will be two different Brocade products, it will likely come down to which catches on with customers. Besides software support, a major difference in the products is that Brocade's intelligent router is built on chips it acquired from Rhapsody. McData uses chips from Aarohi, which was recently acquired by Emulex. (See Brocade Scoops Up Rhapsody and Emulex Buys Aarohi.)

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC)

  • Hitachi Data Systems (HDS)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Incipient Inc.

  • LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI)

  • McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA)

  • QLogic Corp. (Nasdaq: QLGC)

  • The StorageIO Group

  • StoreAge Networking Technologies Ltd.

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