There is rarely a dull day in the wild and madly exciting world of storage and storage management. Those bygone days, when talking (or writing) about storage systems would fill most people’s minds with dread and thoughts of sleep, are well and truly behind us. Well, almost. Last week witnessed EMC, one of the industry’s giants, launch its much awaited network storage virtualisation platform, EMC Invista, at the company’s Technology Summit in New Orleans.
The approach taken by Invista to provide networked storage virtualisation is to house the virtualisation software in the emerging “smart” fabric switches from Brocade, Cisco and McData. EMC expects to make Invista solutions running on EMC Connectrix branded switches from Brocade and Cisco generally available in the third quarter of 2005. Solutions running on McData switches will be supported early next year.
EMC will be actively promoting the virtues of its out-of-band architecture versus the in-band storage virtualisation adopted by some of the appliance and array-based solutions with which it is likely that Invista will compete. Principally, EMC believes its out-of-band approach to be highly performant and extremely scalable. Naturally enough, the alternative approaches employed by other solutions will have their architectural merits promoted.
In truth though, it will not be to the advantage of any storage virtualisation vendor to attempt to make the chosen architecture of their virtualisation solution a quasi-religious matter. Customers simply do not care as long as the products do what they say they can do. The storage management vendors will see much better benefit from simply promoting the business merits of the virtualisation offerings.
It is good to recognise that EMC has taken this thought to heart, as much of its communications concerning Invista have sought to highlight why organisations should deploy Invista. Primary amongst these are the ability to support non-disruptive operations and significantly reduce, or eliminate, the need for down time, coupled with efficient storage management. In addition, the virtualisation simplifies the movement of data across tiered storage and provides greater flexibility to organizations when selecting the underlying storage platforms.
The ability of Invista to create dynamically managed logical or virtual pools of storage resources from heterogeneous physical storage platforms is at the heart of virtualisation. Invista employs open application programming interfaces (APIs) to interface to the storage hardware platforms and the system will, on day one, interoperate with a selected range of storage arrays from various vendors including EMC, IBM and HDS. EMC plans to support additional platforms over time. Invista will at GA support various operating systems including Solaris, Windows, AIX, HP-UX and Linux along with the VMware environment. Invista management will be integrated with EMC ControlCenter and will also operate with the emerging SMIS and FAIS (Fabric Application Interface Standard) management standards.
EMC clearly expects the first use of Invista to be in large enterprise environments where the capabilities supplied will be warmly welcomed. However, the company fully expects that as storage standards mature, Invista solutions will be made available to smaller organisations via the EMC Velocity channel partners.
There is no doubt at all that storage virtualisation has a foundational role to play in the storage infrastructure. The emergence of an EMC solution into this space alongside offerings from several of the other major players is certain to boost customer confidence that storage virtualisation is now a reality and is going to take a place at the heart of their IT infrastructure.
EMC Invista is a technology that is likely to be widely deployed. What is absolutely certain is that the storage virtualisation technology race is now well and truly on.