chief development officer, EMC

EMC Corp. at its annual users conference Monday formally announced its storage virtualization technology, which will reside on products from the three leading switch vendors and will be generally available next quarter.

Invista, formerly known as Storage Router, is a quarter behind schedule going to market, something EMC executives attributed to “common” development issues.

The technology will be able to present arrays on a heterogeneous storage-area network (SAN) to application servers as if from a single pool of capacity, said Mark Lewis, chief development officer at EMC. The virtualization device will start at US$225,000 retail and can support up to 64TB of storage in its initial implementation. We’re not after breathtaking sales or [seeing] how fast we can get to revenue. We want to get this into development environments. Mark Lewis>Text Speaking at EMC’s Technology Summit here in New Orleans, Lewis told about 4,000 attendees packed into a cavernous hall that the first version of the product is aimed squarely at Global 2000 companies. It will be most valuable, he said, in migrating data off aging systems or from one box to another during software upgrades so as to not disrupt applications.

“I think change management is where it’s at,” Lewis said.

“We’re going after the enterprise because that’s the right place to start it,” he said. “We’re not after breathtaking sales or [seeing] how fast we can get to revenue. We want to get this into development environments. These are big folks. We do not want to misstep here. Over time we will scale down, but this is a technology that’s going to have the most value for people who have the highest business continuity and are the most change-adverse.”

The first iteration of Invista will be sold exclusively through direct sales, but Lewis said he expects to open it up to EMC’s “more experienced channel partners” in the first half of 2006. According to Lewis, the first version of Invista will reside on EMC’s own Connectrix switches, Cisco Systems Inc.’s MDS line of switches and Brocade Communications Systems Inc.’s multiprotocol switches. It is expected to be available on McData Corp.’s switches in early 2006.

The switch-based virtualization firmware will support all of EMC’s lines of midrange Clariion and high-end Symmetrix storage, as well as systems from Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Hitachi Data Systems Corp., Lewis said. It will be tightly integrated with EMC’s flagship management software product, ControlCenter.

Because Invista rests on the storage network switch, it is different from current virtualization technologies sold by vendors such as IBM or Network Appliance Inc. in that it is an out-of-band technology. That means it uses the metadata associated with blocks of data going across a network to direct the flow of traffic to arrays without interrupting the stream. Invista will also support industry standards such as the Fabric Application Interface Standard and the Storage Management Interface Specification.

“We just route data. We’re going to look like a very simple host bus adapter to an array that’s just passing everything through,” Lewis said. “To an application, we’re invisible. We can give you things like network-based volume management. This is truly the open product of its class, open in terms of allowing functionality and working across all the major switch suppliers as they roll out their intelligent switches.”

Nancy Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., said that while EMC is the last of the leading vendors to have a virtualization product of this caliber, the adoption of virtualization technologies is growing quickly. She added that the in-band/out-of-band argument made by vendors is a moot point because virtualization has yet to create any bottleneck issues, no matter where the technology resides.

Paul Stonchus, a data center manager at MidAmerica Bank in Naperville, Ill., said he has EMC Symmetrix, Clariion and Centera arrays in his data center and would eventually like to use Invista to migrate data across arrays. His goal is to place information on the appropriate level of storage based on age and importance, but he said he’s not yet ready to “reinvent the wheel.”

“I’m intrigued by it,” he said. “Once we decide to cross our Clariion and Symmetrix [environments], it will make all the sense in world. But for now, I’ll wait for Rev. 2.”

Mario Arbelaez, a storage engineer at software vendor Acxiom Corp. in Little Rock, Ark., said Invista is something he’d like to explore because migrating data when upgrading storage management software causes application downtime. Arbelaez, who has storage from HP, IBM, Storage Technology Corp. and EMC, said the $225,000 Invista price tag isn’t too expensive “when you’re talking about trying to migrate 25TB of data.”

“Every data migration we do gives us problems. We don’t [migrate data] now because of the performance degradation issues it causes,” Arbelaez said.

Daniel Winn, a manager of storage backup systems at Banknorth Group Inc., said he doesn’t like the idea of placing virtualization technology in the network because it would create confusion as to who is responsible for managing the technology — network or storage administrators. Winn said he believes virtualization technology should reside on the array itself, like Hitachi’s TagmaStor technology.

“At our company, the network group and the storage group are separate,” said Winn, whose 20TB of SAN-based storage is made up entirely of EMC arrays. “Who’s going to be in charge of managing it?”

Related link:

IBM enhances virtualization software

Cisco outlines virtualization vision

Saskatoon gets real success with virtual storage

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