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Virsto Angling for Storage Efficiencies in Server, Desktop Virtual Environments

Virtualization has become a mainstay in the server market, and, increasingly, it is reshaping the way businesses approach the desktop. But storage has continued to weigh down the economic advantages of server and desktop virtualization.

In response, a growing number of IT shops have been seeking to apply a virtualization model to storage. Count among those Virsto Software, a four-year-old startup that formed around the premise that "virtual computing required a new virtual storage architecture." Instead of tackling storage virtualization at the array, Virsto offers a software package implemented within the server hypervisor that it describes as "VM-centric," providing for thin-provisioned, high-performance disks in a solution that promises to slash storage costs by more than 50 percent.

"The gains of server consolidation and improved efficiency and cost savings on the server side were being completely consumed by the increasing storage capacity requirements and cost in virtualized environments," said Gregg Holzrichter, Virsto's vice president of marketing.

Leading firms in the server virtualization sector are taking note.

"After a little more than 10 years, the server virtualization market is maturing, and real change is afoot," Holzrichter said.

"Without a doubt, one of the most interesting developments is the increased attention that the server hypervisor vendors are paying to storage. Virsto delivers a 'storage hypervisor' that extends and optimizes storage performance and management on both Hyper-V and ESX, so we are excited to partner with both companies and ride this wave."

Virsto's solution is available in the form of a software download that is hypervisor-agnostic in its architecture, offering the potential for compatibility with the major hypervisor platforms. At present, Virsto's software works with VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, and the firm has support for additional hypervisors on its roadmap in the near term.

In describing its value proposition, Virsto explains that its "architecture was designed specifically to handle the very random, very write-intensive environments typical in virtual computing--both server and desktop--with a scalable model" that delivers superior cost efficiencies for lower-end deployments while providing the flexibility to scale to large cloud-computing environments. In that sense, Virsto is aiming to bridge the fault line that has historically necessitated a tradeoff between performance and efficiency.

"Traditionally, provisioning storage in virtualized environments required a choice between production-level performance and efficient storage capacity consumption," Holzrichter said.

Perhaps the biggest challenge Virsto faces in winning over new clients is getting the word out about the cost efficiencies its software promises. Then again, there is also the matter of overcoming the skepticism that inevitably greets Virsto's claims, which Holzrichter allows are "admittedly bold." After all, Virsto promises an enterprise-class storage solution with a feature set that typically commands $25 to $30 per GB for about a quarter of the cost, commonly between $6 and $8 per gig.

So then, the task for the sales team becomes one of securing an initial meeting and then prevailing on IT shops to test and evaluate Virsto's software in their data centers.

"When people test our software in their environments, our conversion rate is outstanding," Holzrichter said.

Founded in 2007 and based in Sunnyvale, Calif., Virsto enjoys backing from the venture capital firms Canaan Partners, August Capital and InterWest Partners. Earlier this year, Southern Cross Venture Partners and Correlation Ventures joined as new investors.

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for InternetNews.com, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here

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This article was originally published on October 19, 2011
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