For storage hypervisors to be successful they need to allow users to manage storage as a pooled resource rather than just a number of point-products, as well as the connection of arrays form multiple vendors underneath a common management suite. For the market to take off in a parallel way to the server hypervisor market ten years ago, heterogeneity is a vital component. No matter how well snapshotting, thin provisioning and other advanced storage features are supported, keeping customers tied solely to a single product line will not yield the benefits of matching workloads to appropriate storage tiers. Many customer can still be viewed as being locked in to their storage vendors, but smarter storage virtulisation could shift the balance and open up storage.

IBM’s SAN Volume Controller (SVC) has been around for many years. It has been designed to allow multiple connections. In its current version (6.3) it has certified over 200 arrays from over 20 other suppliers alongside 10 of its own (click here for an overview). It continues to take considerable efforts from the engineers to test and certify arrays, operating systems, network components and protocols – some of which we’ve witnessed at its Hursley Park facility in the UK. New in the latest version has been the inclusion of:

  • Its own StorWize V7000 Unified and XIV Gen 3
  • HP’s 3Par
  • Fujitsu’s DX arrays
  • TMS’s 440
  • 3 Bull arrays
  • 2 Violin Memory SSDs

Alongside Vmware vSphere 5 and Red Hat’s RHEL 6 operating systems and the addition of Metro/Global Mirroring.
IBM does far more than offering one-way attachment for migration, which arguably was the positioning of its Shark systems many years ago: SVC actively supports the coexistence of IBM and other suppliers’ arrays – something we’re discovering interviewing customers as storage hypervisors case studies.
IBM has 2 major advantages if/when there is a surge in user adoption of storage hypervisors:

  • When designing its own arrays it is able to think about how best they will work in a mixed environment, or offer the features of SVC within a single box (as it does with the StorWize V7000 Unified for instance): ‘in-the-box’ storage systems vendors will need to think about many external issues to remain relevant
  • It, and other storage hypervisor vendors, have considerable experience in testing and certifying other vendors’ arrays and operating systems. The goal is not only to provide plug-and-play support, but also that storage pool management works out seamlessly.

IBM’s is only one of four main approaches to storage hypervisors in our view – but for all four needs to validate multiple components from other vendors. IBM can be argued to having quietly done the heavy-lifting in engineering to make sure its SVC approach is reliable. This approach demonstrates the importance of practical versatility which by the way is a significant investment. We’re interested in looking into similar approaches from other storage hypervisor competitors.

Rainmaker Files is currently researching storage hypervisor usage for an upcoming study – please contact us to find out more.
Image Credit: Martin Hingley

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