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Storage Virtualization Revisited

We agree. In fact, we also devoted our May 27, 2002, cover to the state of storage virtualization technology (see "Nice, Neat Storage: The Reality,"), and have revisited the topic.

This time around, we liked what we saw from vendors; see "LUN Is the Loneliest Number," for the results from our latest RFI. But two years ago, we withheld our Editor's Choice award because we weren't impressed with any of the virtualization road maps submitted for our review, and we were put off by the oversell of the technology: Vendors were writing checks with their marketing brochures that we doubted their products could cash.

All Virtualization is In-Band

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For example, vendors claimed their wares could bring about a well-managed storage infrastructure, as though virtualization software was all that was required to magically create a stable and well-groomed Fibre Channel SAN that could provision applications with the storage they needed automatically. The problem with this assertion is that virtualization is only an "enabling" layer of software--other layers are required on top of virtualization technology to manage the enterprise storage infrastructure.

Moreover, we perceived serious problems with virtualizing heterogeneous storage shares that were beyond the capacity of virtualization software vendors to address. Although virtualization might let you take a LUN exposed by an EMC platform and combine it with a LUN from a Hitachi Data Systems array to form a virtual volume, common sense dictates that you'd never want to risk it. Given that array designs and onboard features can vary greatly, we thought the resulting virtual volume would be unstable. Moreover, many end users told us they wouldn't trust their critical data to a volume constructed without regard for the hostility between the vendors of the source LUNs.

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