By Kevin Komiega
—;3PAR recently announced Virtual Domains software for its InServ Storage Server platforms that lets administrators slice and dice physical arrays for secure, shared access to up to 2,000 virtual arrays per system.
The software logically separates users or groups of users, hosts, and storage resources to set up administrative segregation within a tiered storage system, and distributes application workloads across systems resources, including ports, processors, cache, loops, and drives.
3PAR's premise is that disparate user groups, departments, and external customers are barred from sharing storage resources due to concerns surrounding privacy, control, and compliance requirements, which results in the proliferation of disparate physical storage systems.
"One barrier that IT runs into when trying to consolidate across the data center is the secure management of application resources as they relate to storage," says Craig Nunes, 3PAR's director of marketing. "Virtual Domains solves for storage what hypervisors like VMware or Xen solve for servers by providing secure application segregation on shared resources while increasing utilization."
Virtual Domains gives users the ability to define autonomous, secure, and policy-based virtual arrays, or "domains," within a single physical array. A master administrator creates a domain and then assigns logically defined entities to it, including logical host definitions, provisioning policies defining storage tiers and associated capacity, and privilege-specified administrators. Depending on the level of access, users are able to create, export, and copy standard or thin-provisioned volumes.
Users can independently administer and monitor the system without exposing themselves to the actions or visibility of other users and domains because they only have access to those domains to which they have been assigned.
Some analysts are classifying the capabilities in Virtual Domains as a next step in storage virtualization.
"Storage has traditionally been in its own vertical management silo. Virtual Domains software is a step along the path toward solving that problem," says Nik Simpson, an analyst at Burton Group. "It allows different organizations full control over their piece of the array without being able to impact other parts of it."
Steve Norall, an analyst with the Taneja Group, also believes 3PAR is moving up the evolutionary ladder in terms of storage virtualization technology. "Companies are collapsing more and more workloads onto single, large boxes. Traditionally, if you wanted to get physical isolation you created partitions, but partitions can tank your utilization," says Norall. "Virtual Domains provides the isolation, but does it across all of the resources of the box."
Pricing for Virtual Domains begins at $1,500 and varies based on configuration. According to 3PAR's Nunes, Virtual Domains for an InServ with more than 100 drives and tens of terabytes of capacity, for example, provides up to 2,000 virtual arrays for $10,000 to $20,000.