Virtualization gives administrators the ability to pool storage devices from different vendors, add capacity easily, and move data among devices independent of server operating systems or network infrastructure. Its a big leap from the laborious and cumbersome way that data is currently moved around storage networks.
There are a couple of ways to do virtualization. StorageApps makes an "in-band" appliance that sits between the host server and the storage devices. The alternative approach, adopted by companies such as StoreAge Networking Technologies Ltd., means deploying an "out-of band" appliance. Instead of the software sitting between the host servers and storage arrays, it resides on these systems at either end of the network (see The Coming of the StoreAge).
Which way is better? Good question. HP itself says there are pluses and minuses to each approach. Youre basically trading one problem for another, says Buzz "Lightyear" Walker, director of strategic ventures for HPs storage organization.
Walker says the main reason HP bought StorageApps is not technology at all -- but customers. The startup is already selling to Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., Bear Stearns, and E-Trade.
The majority of other startups are still in development mode, says Walker.
And theres certainly enough of them, including (but not limited to): Panasas, DataCore Software, FalconStor Software Inc., Zambeel Inc., and StoreAge (see Top Ten Private Storage Networking Companies).