Virtual Storage Buying Guide

By Drew Robb

We recently published an article providing virtual storage tips from a wide range of experts. Let’s follow that up with a virtual storage buying guide covering some of the recent vendor developments in this rapidely growing category.

VMware Virtual SAN

The big news in storage virtualization lately concerns VMware. The VMware Virtual SAN is characterized as providing hypervisor-converged storage for virtual machines (VMs). Virtual SAN is embedded directly in vSphere and does not require any additional software to be installed. It can be managed through the vSphere Web Client and vCenter Server. It integrates with the VMware stack.

VM storage provisioning and management of storage SLAs can all be controlled through VM-level policies. Virtual SAN self-tunes and load balances to adapt to changes in workload conditions. This hypervisor integration and per-VM policy-driven approach automates manual storage tasks.

Virtual SAN 6 can scale up to 64 nodes per cluster and deliver up to 7 million IOPS. Capacity and performance can be scaled independently by adding disks or flash devices or both can be scaled together with compute resources by adding new hosts. Alberto Farronato, director of product marketing, Storage and Availability at Vmware, said Virtual SAN has been adopted by over 1,000 businesses in the last nine months. VMware Virtual SAN is priced at $2,495 per CPU. VMware Virtual SAN for Desktop is priced at $50 per user.

“A new all-flash architecture will be available as on add-on to VMware Virtual SAN 6, and will be priced at $1,495 per CPU and $30 per desktop,” said Farronato.

Scale Computing HC3

HC3 is said to be a ‘datacenter in a box’ with server, storage and virtualization integrated into a single appliance. 3-node starter systems with redundant hardware, all software pre-loaded (no additional software license for virtualization) and first year support start at $25,499.

“Scale’s HC3 was targeted to meet the needs of small to mid-sized IT shops where there are typically just a few IT personnel to take care of everything,” said Dave Demlow, Vice President of VP Product Management and Support, Scale Computing. 

Infinio Accelerator

Infinio Accelerator is said to separate storage into its two foundational functions: capacity and performance. By doing this, users can optimize and control these resources to reduce cost per gigabyte and cost per I/O operations per second (IOPS). In order to reduce latency and load on existing storage solutions, this tool form a storage performance layer that leverages existing server-side resources.

“Users don’t have to change their storage capacity, replace arrays or abandon their familiar tools or reports,’ said Scott Davis, CTO of Infinio.


Xangati is focused on delivering service assurance to virtualized and hybrid cloud workloads and applications. It offers agentless and extensible data collection from compute, network, storage and application sources, as well as continuous visualization of resource consumption and capacity planning.

“Hypervisors already provide some visibility into storage through their abstracted views, which Xangati visualizes, learns and analyzes,” said Sundi Sundaresh, CEO, Xangati. “Deep storage support is part of Xangati’s cross-silo approach.”

As such, it helps storage admins to visualize, learn and analyze dependencies between compute-side data stores and LUNs. In addition, it provides storage metrics and associations using storage-specific APIs.

IBM Spectrum Storage

IBM Spectrum Storage is software delivered through the cloud, addressing data storage inefficiencies. It does this by adding a layer of intelligent software, which aims to store every bit of data at the optimal cost in order to maximize performance and security. The software moves data to flash storage for fast access to tape and cloud for the lowest cost.  

IBM has also figured out how to extract intelligence from its traditional storage hardware products so it can be used as-a-service, as an appliance, or software. IBM Spectrum Accelerate lets users layer their infrastructure with features derived from IBM’s high-end XIV array such as zero-tuning that adds storage capacity in minutes, as well as DR capabilities.

“The software can help provide business continuity upon disaster for all committed data, compared to the risk of losing 15 minutes of data or more with certain other competing storage software,” said Bernie Spang, Vice President of Software Defined Infrastructure at IBM. “As companies move business critical workloads to the cloud they will be more concerned about reducing time to access and recover data (in case of disasters) to close to zero seconds, making performance, protection and resiliency features more important for businesses to consider than cloud storage pricing alone.” 


DataGravity is said to provide operational, security and business insights into VMware’s vRealize cloud management platform. Those using both tools in tandem can accelerate visibility, troubleshooting and resolution of data privacy, security and compliance issues. The DataGravity Discovery Series is being made available through vRealize plug-ins to add data analytics at the storage layer for VMware-based infrastructures. As part of this partnership, DataGravity and VMware are consolidating system logs, alerts and the data to identify and surface risks to data security and simplify data compliance checks.

“In an age of increased security breaches, the value of data-aware storage within the VMware ecosystem is the next step in helping midmarket customers have a better understanding of what their data is saying and where it is hiding,” said David Siles, CTO of DataGravity.

EMC Data Protection Suite

We would be remiss if we didn’t include some recent virtual backup tools in this buying guide. The EMC Data Protection Suite, for example, backs up virtual and physical infrastructures, along with the applications and databases hosted in these environments. The point is to allow organizations to move seamlessly between physical and virtual deployments, on-premises or in the cloud, with a single set of tools that work together and can be managed from a global data protection manager.

“For running applications in the cloud, EMC provides the ability to run virtual backup appliances in the cloud as well, with both VMware and Hyper-V models, to cover the largest expanse of application clouds,” said Peter Smails, Senior Product Marketing Director, EMC Core Technologies. “For ‘born in the cloud’ applications like Salesforce, Google Apps, or Office 365, uses want continuous protection of the data from either accidental or malicious destruction with full administrative control. EMC provides this kind of functionality through our recent acquisition of Spanning.”

NetApp SteelStore Cloud-Based Appliance in AWS

The NetApp SteelStore cloud-integrated storage appliance leverages public and private cloud as part of a backup and archive strategy. For organizations without a secondary disaster recovery location, or for companies looking for extra protection with a low-cost tertiary site, SteelStore AMIs are available as physical or virtual appliances. If the primary site is unavailable, users can spin-up a SteelStore AMI and recover data to Amazon EC2. Pricing Data: The cost ranges from $0.67/hr to $1.54/hr + storage and compute costs.

“If you already have production workloads running in Amazon EC2, protecting those workloads in the cloud is just as critical as if they were running on-premise,” said Adam Fore, Director, Virtualization and Cloud Solutions Marketing, NetApp. “SteelStore AMIs offer an efficient and secure approach to
backing up cloud-based workloads. Using your existing backup software, SteelStore AMI deduplicates, encrypts, and rapidly migrates data to Amazon S3 or Glacier.

Datto Virtual SIRIS

Another new tool related to virtual backup is Datto Virtual SIRIS. It includes Screenshot Backup Verification, which is automated testing of backups, as well as physical and virtual backup ability. This allows users to backup all of their IT infrastructure to one virtual device and have it replicated in the Datto Cloud network, said Ian McChord, product director of Datto.

NexGen N5 Hybrid Flash Array

This last one is not specifically a storage virtualization product. But it’s what it integrates with that gives it entry into this buying guide. The NexGen N5 Hybrid Flash array integrates RAM, flash, and disk into a single, simple pool of storage. Then by applying Storage QoS to each individual VM through VMware’s VASA VVOL provider, administrators can define how much storage performance each VM has access to and what priority that workload is.

 Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article was originally published on March 02, 2015