Does virtualization free you up or lock you in?

Posted on May 01, 2006

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When the word “virtualization” was first applied to storage, it referred to the ability to create a unified pool of storage from heterogeneous disk platforms by masking the underlying complexity. One of the primary benefits was to enable users to add inexpensive storage resources to existing resources while retaining the management simplicity of a homogeneous environment.

It still does. However, in the old days the virtualization engine was typically a piece of software from a small, relatively unknown start-up that didn’t sell large, expensive disk arrays. These days, virtualization is usually discussed in the context of products such as IBM’s SVC, EMC’s Invista, and Hitachi Data Systems’ TagmaStore controller.

Do you think that those vendors have the same utilitarian goals as the start-ups did-to make it easier for you to add inexpensive ponies to your existing stable of stallions?

Virtualization is becoming a competitive weapon. As Info-Tech’s John Sloan notes in Why virtualization is like the neutron bomb,” on p. 39 of this issue, virtualization enables a vendor to eliminate the enemy while leaving the enemy’s infrastructure standing.

However, as Sloan points out, virtualization (storage or server) is just a step along the way to the true goal (well, users’ true goal): the IT utility, where storage and compute power are served up like commodities such as water and electricity.

As such, I suppose it doesn’t matter that vendors use virtualization for ulterior competitive motives that, at least in the short term, may translate into vendor lock-in. In the long run, virtualization will lead to commoditization, which translates into a buyer’s market where the end users ultimately benefit the most.

Perhaps we should have sub-titled Sloan’s article, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

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Dave Simpson Editor-in-chief


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