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Virtualization shines in the world of storage

Quoting eChannelLine

Looking back through 2006, storage virtualization was a hot topic for many vendors, and some analysts are putting it on their list of trends to watch for in the coming year.

According to a December report by research firm IDC Corp., storage virtualization is no longer a nascent market with limited user deployments and immature technology. Of those surveyed for the report, 49 per cent said they are evaluating storage virtualization solutions and 34 per cent of respondents said they have already implemented such a solution. The report noted that file-centric applications will increase in importance for storage solution providers in the coming years.

Parag Suri, category business manager for storage at Hewlett-Packard Co., agreed that virtualization has been a hot storage topic in the past year. He said customers are trying to "essentially optimize and have better utilization of the resources they have in place," in the hopes that the optimization will translate into cost savings.

Suri said HP, as a systems vendor, is able to tie in virtualization with both its storage and server realms. "Customers can see the benefit of virtualization of both server and storage products and they end up seeing a better benefit because a lot of technologies end up being intertwined with better integration," he said.

In April, Hitachi Data Systems Corp. (HDS) added to its storage virtualization lineup with the introduction of a diskless version of the TagmaStore network storage controller, model NSC55. HDS spokesperson Mary Ann Gallo said the NSC55 diskless version manages up to 16 petabytes of externally attached heterogeneous storage. Gallo also noted that by December, Hitachi had shipped more than 4,500 intelligent virtual storage controllers worldwide and claimed to be the first and only major vendor to implement storage controller-based virtualization.

IDC in its report predicted that over the next five years, virtualization will emerge as an important competitive battleground in the storage industry, driving changes in storage system architectures, encouraging significant investments in new storage software solutions, and potentially disrupting the current competitive environment. According to the report, the deployment of block, file and tape virtualization will play a key role in helping companies pool storage resources across multiple classes of storage and applications while helping reduce the complexities of configuring storage systems and managing backups.

As for virtual tape libraries (VTLs), although the concept has been around for some time, analysts point to a still-growing market, and some vendors have introduced new VTL products to take advantage of that growth.

The April 2005 acquisition of VTL provider Alacritus for $11 million enabled Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) to enter the open systems VTL market, and in February of this year the vendor released NearStore VTL600 and VTL1200, two new versions of its VTL disk-to-disk backup appliance. According to NetApp spokesperson Lindsey Smith, the appliance emulates a physical tape library -- and appears as such to a backup software application -- but is supposed to be faster and more reliable. In October NetApp introduced more NearStore products: the VTL300, VTL700, and VTL1400. These VTLs allow for double or triple the amount of backup data to be stored on disk while significantly increasing VTL write performance, according to Smith.

In a January IDC Viewpoint document, Nick Sundby, consulting director of European Storage for IDC, noted that although NetApp is a relatively late entrant to the VTL market for heterogeneous storage, the firm "appears to have made a strategic commitment to the market with a wholly NetApp-owned technology."

HDS also kept busy in this space with the introduction of its own VTL offering, available through a global reseller agreement with Diligent Technologies. HDS spokesperson Gallo said the VTL, meant for both mainframe and open system environments, fits in with the vendor's overall Application Optimized Storage solutions approach, which matches specific application requirements with storage attributes.

Looking into the future, an October report by IDC painted a picture of solid growth for VTLs. According to the report, open-system VTL solutions are currently using high-capacity, low-cost disk drives such as Serial Advanced Technology Architecture (SATA). Open system customers are also considering VTLs to increase recovery time objectives, improve tape utilization and decrease backup windows, the report stated.

IDC projected that the worldwide VTL market will double in value over the next five years, reaching $1.4 billion by 2011, while market terabytes will increase at a 47.4-per-cent compounded annual growth rate over the same period. The report also predicted that open system VTL solutions will drive market growth, overshadowing enterprise mainframe VTLs in the year ahead, and that VTLs will be increasingly integrated as tiered storage solutions.

Read or comment on the original, here.

Published Thursday, January 11, 2007 7:01 AM by David Marshall
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