Virtually Speaking: Storage, The New Frontier

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Oct 2, 2007


Amy Newman
Storage virtualization is hot, hot, hot. Is it also a case study in convergence?

One of the advantages of being in a major metropolitan area is the plethora of conferences and trade shows that are often only a train ride away.

In New York City last week the world at large had its eye on the United Nations meeting, but some IT pros in the Big Apple had their minds on other things, namely storage and virtualization — and in many cases the two together.

Storage was a hot topic at the InfoWorld Virtualization Executive Forum held early in the week. Later, virtualization was prevalent at Storage Decisions.

At the "Storage Virtualization (SANs)" session in the Case Studies track at the Virtualization Executive Forum, for example, it was stated that enterprises often exhibit up to a 40 percent increase in storage utilization when they virtualize.

If that's not enough to convince you that convergence is more than a buzzword for these technologies, consider how big storage was at VMworld.

Prior to last month's show, fellow Jupitermedia site Enterprise Storage Forum noted that FalconStor, Onaro, HDS, DataCore, EqualLogic, Agami, Network Appliance and EMC were some of the many vendors trotting out VMware-related storage announcements at VMworld.

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Then came last week's announcement. VMware is no stranger to storage, thanks to its EMC connection, so conceptually, the hardware certification program for storage virtualization devices offers little surprise.

According to Enterprise Storage Forum, a VMware spokesman said the certification program "is designed to test and ensure interoperability between the storage virtualization device and VMware ESX Server. Once a device passes this test suite, VMware places it on the VMware SAN Compatibility Guide (which is published on the VMware Web site) and provides customer support for the configuration."

EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM and Network Appliance are already on board to get certified later this year.

VMware is, of course, hardly the only vendor making a virtual crossing. Virtualization and storage are highly complementary, perhaps because many of the components of a traditional storage platform, such as RAID, have an architecture similar to that of a virtual environment.

From that angle, EMC's talons seem a natural fit for VMware. This compatibility perhaps also accounts for the fact that the virtual storage pool is getting increasingly crowded, especially as many of the traditionally physical components of a storage system get virtualized.

Emulex is one vendor with product in this pool. The company designs products that connect storage, servers and networks. At Storage Decisions, it introduced a host bus adapter (HBA) that provides server-to-fabric authentication capabilities to further secure of storage area networks (SANs). Although not specifically designed for virtual environments, it is complementary of them and is well-suited for use within them, Scott McIntyre, vice president of software and customer marketing at Emulex, told ServerWatch.

"Physical security," McIntyre noted, "doesn't cut it anymore."

The new authentication capabilities are designed to protect all the access points into the SAN. The functionality, which is scheduled for release next month, will be available with Emulex's 4Gb/s family of LightPulse Fibre Channel HBAs and forthcoming 8Gb/s HBAs.

Emulex is laying claim being the first to offer technology in compliance with the Fibre Channel Security Protocol (FC-SP).

Storage virtualization is a complex topic. If you're looking to learn more, be sure to check out Enterprise Storage Forum, which follows this market closely and provides both news and tutorials.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization since 2001.

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