From buzzword to the ‘V’ word

You know a buzzword’s in trouble when even vendors start referring to it as the “V” word. It’s sort of like Voldemort in the Harry Potter books: “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

Just when talk about virtualization was starting to simmer down, the 800-pound gorilla finally took the wraps off Invista-the platform formerly known as Storage Router (see cover)-so the hype and confusion is sure to reach fever pitch again.

Until recently, virtualization referred primarily to masking (virtualizing) the differences between heterogeneous physical devices to provide a single pool of storage in which all devices are created (or least treated) equal.

However, that concept didn’t exactly set the storage world on fire because Magilla, Big Blue, and Hewlett-Packard, too, didn’t want it to because device equality wasn’t in their best interests.

Now the “V” word usually refers to an enabling technology that allows users to run storage services (applications)-often in places where they don’t usually run, such as in a switch or a dedicated appliance on the network (unless you’re an HDS TagmaStore user, in which case they still run on the array).

But in some senses virtualization still isn’t in the best interests of the disk-array market share leaders, which is one reason why Invista and other high-end virtualization schemes will creep into end users’ environments at a glacial pace. (The other reason is Invista’s $250,000 price tag.) In fact, EMC is calling it a “controlled rollout” (and competitors are calling it a “controlled beta test,” as noted in our cover story).

Of course, IBM has shipped more than 1,000 SAN Volume Controllers-which indicates some end-user interest-but I’m betting those shipments were mostly to the bluest of True Blue shops and are used in homogeneous environments.

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Hewlett-Packard made a slew of product announcements at its StorageWorks Conference last month (see cover) but mercifully spared us any talk about virtualization except, of course, in the context of its Enterprise Virtual Arrays (which is a debatable use of the “V” word to begin with).

Will end users adopt virtualization? Every week we receive press releases about customer wins from smaller virtualization players such as DataCore, FalconStor, StoreAge, etc., but nevertheless we expect adoption of virtualization to go very slowly-unless, apparently, you’re an InfoStor reader.

According to a recent QuickVote reader poll, 23.4% of you have already implemented storage virtualization (see pie chart). Either you folks are painfully bleeding edge, or, you’re using a rather liberal definition of the “V” word that includes things like host-based volume managers (which are, in fact, storage virtualization tools). Then again, more than 38% of you have no plans to use storage virtualization.

In this issue . . .

If you need a refresher course on the “V” word, see “Storage virtualization: An overview,” in this issue, which is an excerpt from Tom Clark’s recently released book-yes, an entire book, 234 pages!-on the subject.

Speaking of exciting technologies that are experiencing end-user adoption at glacial paces, also check out the following articles in this issue: “Breaking through the iSCSI barriers,” by the Taneja Group’s Arun Taneja, and our Special Report, “It’s a long and winding road to ILM,” by freelancer Michele Hope.

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Dave Simpson

This article was originally published on June 01, 2005