IBM Jazzes Up Storage Virtualization Portfolio


As the IT industry pushes to make data retrievable from many devices using one portal window, it stands to reason that the underlying technology, storage virtualization , is so prized. Virtualization helps enterprises lower their costs because they need fewer storage devices, components, and staffers to manage the wealth of data across their networks.

But because so few firms have both the technology and the ability to market it and sell it to customers, development of storage virtualization in the market has lagged, according to analysts.

IBM, which battles systems and enterprise vendors EMC, HP, and Hitachi Data Systems in the storage sector, has revealed details and pricing for two new offerings from its TotalStorage unit that manage storage from many places in one large pool.

IBM says SAN (Storage Area Network) Volume Controller was created for such chores as rendering a single point of control for a stored data common platform, as well as helping to boost storage capacity use, which can be a challenge for administrators.

The Volume Controller pools data from different arrays into one device and safely delivers data to server applications. SAN Volume Controller lets administrators scale storage capacity by adding disks to the attached storage arrays. This scaling for throughput and capacity is done without disrupting applications, yielding performance of up to 280,000 input/outputs per second and up to 1,780 MB per second of throughput, and as much as two petabytes of pooled storage, according to IBM.

But for those seeking to install a new storage area network, Big Blue is offering the SAN Integration Server, which consists of the SAN Volume Controller along with Fibre Channel switches and IBM FAStT storage rolled into one storage area network suite.

Enterprise Storage Group Senior Analyst Tony Prigmore says SAN Volume Controller is tailored for enterprises that want to retro-fit virtualization into an existing SAN, while the SAN Integration Server is a "plug-and-play" solution designed to fit into a company's infrastructure. Prigmore also discussed what SAN Volume Controller and SAN Integration Server bring to the table for customers.

"From a client-side perspective, IBM has been very successful selling IBM large volumes of ESS high-end Shark arrays and the FastT array to the midranges," Prigmore told "They have an enormous client base with both, but the SAN Volume Controller is for the client base looking for a more pragmatic approach so they don't have to support every device on the planet out of the box. This is very helpful to a large captive customer base looking to drive down lower total cost of ownership."

Virtualization adoption has been a bit slow in the public sector, which Prigmore attributes to relatively small companies, such as FalconStor, Data Core and StoreAge, pushing the concept of virtualization as a standalone technology. "The technology was good, but they don't have the reach to develop fully-baked solutions."

Prigmore believes IBM's next step will be to qualify other devices beyond the SAN volume controller to provide appeal beyond its own client base. "They now have a virtualization product family. Today we see block-level virtualization capabilities with SAN Volume, but importantly it paves the way for more customers to easily adopt advanced storage functions, such as remote copy."

He said firms like IBM and HP, with all of their marketing, channel and service capabilities, will push virtualization into the forefront of the public realm, where they will eventually go head to head competing for new installations.

Brian Truskowski, general manager, IBM Storage Software, says the advancements in IBM's storage virtualization portfolio, first announced April 30 as part of IBM's third leg of on-demand progress, are indicative of the company's progress in molding their offerings to be deployed on-the-fly for demanding e-business environments. But exact pricing and specifics were unavailable at that time.

The SAN Volume Controller, which runs on IBM's xSeries servers powered by the Linux operating system, has a base configuration price tag of $60,000. The SAN Integration Server has a base configuration price of $140,000. Both products will be available July 25.

IBM also announced it will later add the virtualization family to its IBM TotalStorage Proven Program, where independent software vendors can test products for interoperability with other solutions. IBM will ship virtualization products that support IBM storage servers and will expand to non-IBM storage systems later in 2003.

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