StorageTek Plans Virtualization Device

Looks to forge partnerships to develop an answer to EMC Storage Router

November 20, 2004

3 Min Read
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Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) could jump into the virtualization appliance game next year, around the time EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) rolls out its storage router.

StorageTek director of strategy, Todd Rief, says his company is talking to intelligent software vendors and switch companies as possible partners in an answer to EMC's router. Likely partners include Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS) and switch vendors Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA).

StorageTek is clearly trying to break out of its traditional role as tape vendor, and get more involved with other tiers of storage. There’s a trend towards disk virtualization, and we’re going to be agitators there,” Rief says of a likely foray into intelligent switches.

EMC Storage Router consists of EMC's virtualization software running on hardware from Brocade, Cisco, and McData. The router moves data from one array to another without disruption, even if the arrays are from different vendors. EMC demonstrated its router at Storage Networking World last month and expects to ship in mid 2005 (see EMC Takes Storage Router for a Spin).

StorageTek has been quiet with its plans, and Rief still isn’t saying for sure that it will have a virtualization appliance. But an industry source says StorageTek started down this road at least six months ago, and is actually working on OEM or reseller deals for two devices.One appliance includes software from startup Incipient Inc. and purpose-built intelligent switches (see Startups Abuzz Over Intelligence). The other device would probably involve Veritas software running on hardware from one of the major switch vendors. The source says StorageTek hopes to have something shipping by next April, but that is probably an overly optimistic target.

While EMC developed its own software for the storage router, StorageTek’s role will be more of branding and distribution. Even so, it won’t be easy for StorageTek to get a device out the door before the middle of next year.

“This is a non-trivial effort,” says the source familiar with StorageTek’s plans. “Veritas has been working on it for over three years. Hewlett-Packard never got Versastor to completely work. This stuff is not easy." (See Brocade Teams Up With Veritas, Veritas Demos With Cisco, and HP Picks Rhapsody.)

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) have their own versions of virtualization. IBM uses appliances running its SAN Volume Contoller (SVC), while Hitachi puts virtualization in the controllers of its TagmaStore SAN platform (see Hitachi Struts Mr. Universal and EMC & IBM in Virtual Skirmish).

StorageTek agrees with EMC that virtualization belongs in the SAN. But Rief maintains EMC isn’t serious about seeing it take off, because it would commoditize storage by moving more of it to lower-price disk.“EMC is demonstrating its storage router, but we don’t think they want to sell it,” Rief says. “They have to sell more Symmetrix. We want to be disruptive here. We’re going to stick a pin in high-end systems like Symmetrix, [IBM] Shark, and [HDS] Lighting -- they make far too much money.”

One financial analyst says StorageTek would make a mistake by underestimating EMC’s incentive to sell storage router as an alternative to virtualization incorporated in TagmaStore and IBM’s new DS 8000 system.

”Why would anybody build a product they don’t want to sell?” says Steve Berg of Punk Ziegel & Co. “If EMC doesn’t commoditize themselves at least a little, then somebody else will. And they have to compete with TagmaStore and the new IBM products, so they have to sell this thing.”

Regardless of what happens with intelligent switches, Rief says StorageTek will be busy finalizing partnerships to strengthen its data protection and archiving technologies. “The OEM space is going to be big for us in 2005,” he says.

Look for StorageTek to announce OEM deals in the areas of fixed content, tape emulation, and its core tape library business (see StorageTek & Permabit Mingling and StorageTek, HP Deal on Tape).— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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