They say humans recognize the smell of chili, but dogs can detect the smell of different spices in the chili. Similarly, IT professionals recognize storage virtualization, but industry experts see clear distinctions between the different types of storage virtualization.

Maybe that will help explain why in a recent survey, enterprise IT professionals selected EMC as the market leader in storage virtualization. The responses mirrored the results of a previous survey where end users selected EMC as the “storage” market leader. The two surveys were in some respects redundant because IT professionals see leading vendors delivering a broad portfolio of technology that in one way or another virtualizes storage including NAS, SSD, RAID, VTL, replication, de-duplication and SANs.

Server virtualization is so new and the rate of deployment is so red-hot that people are saying it’s going to drive a similar trend of storage virtualization. But the fact is logical representations of physical storage have been around for a long time – we just haven’t used the term “storage virtualization.”

To put the evolution of storage virtualization in perspective, IT Brand Pulse proposes there are two distinct eras that we’ve already experienced and a third well-defined era on the way:

1970 to 2000: Storage Virtualization 1.0 – LUNs to RAID

In 1970, IBM introduced System/370, the first to use logical volumes / virtual storage. And RAID is an acronym first defined by David A. Patterson, Garth A. Gibson and Randy Katz at the University of California, Berkeley in 1987 to describe a redundant array of inexpensive disks. Of course today sophisticated volume managers are an integral part of every operating system and RAID technology is at the heart of every disk subsystem.

2000 to 2012: Storage Virtualization 2.0 – NAS/SANs to VTL

NAS and SANs took off starting at the turn of the millennium and triggered the development of technologies such as VTL, replication and deduplication that take advantage of pooled and/or remote storage. What we’re seeing today is leading products and vendors in each of these spaces being assimilated into the broader suites of the major storage vendors.

2012 to 2020: Storage Virtualization 3.0 – Heterogeneous Storage Virtualization to the Cloud

On the horizon for storage is heterogeneous storage virtualization – the ability to pool storage from different vendors. I’m predicting this will not take off until 2012 because today storage vendors are glad to manage other people’s storage, but don’t want anyone managing “their” storage. However, standards will emerge for managing virtual storage and the market will slowly adjust. Once standards for management of heterogeneous storage are implemented, storage virtualization 3.0 will end with storage as a service being delivered from the cloud.

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