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Is Storage Commoditization Important?

Is commodity storage good for the enterprise and if it is who should be delivering it? A recent post by Hitachi Data Systems, Hu Yoshida claims that I missed an important point in a recent blog that I wrote here about storage virtualization; the ability for virtualization to
Is commodity storage good for the enterprise and if it is who should be delivering it? A recent post by Hitachi Data Systems, Hu Yoshida claims that I missed an important point in a recent blog that I wrote here about storage virtualization; the ability for virtualization to enhance commodity storage. He's right, I did not mention it at least in that entry, but is it really that important?The question is a fair one to ask. The ability for virtualization products either through software and/or an appliance to manage disparate storage systems has been around for years now and many of them made the same claim; "The disk doesn't matter", buy your storage from anyone you want and then use our virtualization tool to bring it all together. On a whiteboard that strategy makes a lot of sense. How about in the real world?

We have seen these vendors come and go, the true survivors of this concept would also be the early pioneers of it; DataCore and FalconStor. What has changed in recent years is some of the large vendors have entered the space; companies like of course HDS, NetApp, HP and IBM.

To be honest, I don't recall seeing the larger vendors position these solutions as a way to optimize commodity storage. The typical strategy was to buy their virtualization appliance and then from that point forward buy their storage. It makes sense, you can switch to their storage software without throwing away your existing investment in storage but then the expectation, at least on their part, is to continue to buy their disk arrays for "enhanced support". That is a fair strategy and especially HDS and NetApp bring a lot to the table from a storage software functionality game.

The guys that really seem to not care whose storage you get are the guys that don't sell any storage at all, again DataCore and FalconStor are two examples. I have not seen any of these larger vendors announce that they are no longer going to provide disk. If you see any announcements like this buy a ton of stock in Xyratex because you are still going to want a quality storage subsystem.

The point is that virtualization is about more than just enabling you to buy cheap disk. While some vendors really can and want you to be able to use inexpensive disk arrays, virtualization solutions like these, to be successful, have to do more. They for example can enable you to increase redundancy beyond what is available internally as we discuss in our recent article "Serious about HA?".

Final proof of virtualization being more than just 'add value to commodity' storage is that customers are buying turnkey virtualization systems from 3PAR, Xiotech and Compellent, all of whom reported record sales last year, because they like others are leveraging virtualization to deliver smarter, more automated systems. Proving again that virtualization is more than just an 'add value to commodity' storage.

Really that is the point of the original post, driving out costs is critical in todays storage environment, doing so while increasing efficiency is equally if not more important.

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George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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