EMC’s Network Storage Venture


EMC unveiled Invista, software that will lead the company’s highly anticipated entry into the storage virtualization market.


Invista is EMC’s effort to silence critics and better compete with rivals, such as IBM and Hitachi Data Systems. Advanced software for Global 2000 enterprises, it is designed to be bundled with intelligent switches from partners Cisco Systems or Brocade Communications Systems.


Storage virtualization helps companies consolidate data from several
applications or arrays, so that fewer computing machines are required. The
approach lets companies simplify data center operations and all but
eliminates downtime.


To this point, storage virtualization strategies have been “in-band”
approaches, or based on hosts, appliances and arrays. But these approaches
have introduced bottlenecks because they process within the data path.


Invista differs because it is 100 percent based on the network, according to
EMC Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer Mark Lewis, who
introduced the product at a customer event in New Orleans Monday.


Invista copies, or moves, data across a network undisturbed and with zero
latency. Invista allows IT administrators to create virtual volumes, lumping
data from several storage devices into one pool from which users may draw.
The virtualized volumes will allow admins to enjoy the reduced time it takes
to mange volumes of data, Lewis said.


Because it connects to the Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN)
, Invista uses storage from a variety of devices without
directly connecting devices to it. Unlike other solutions, Invista does not
use cache to store data in the network, keeping the data safe from
corruption on a storage array.


This “stateless” approach, as Lewis calls it, will virtually tie machines
together. However, if one goes down, they won’t all go down, because there is
no physical tie, unlike with most virtualization techniques.


“We believe this is critical to customers, because, as you would add layers of
virtualization, you may not be able to understand where the data is
protected or even where your data is,” Lewis said.


“We clearly believe that network-based virtualization is the only way to go
for storage network virtualization,” Lewis continued. “Using this
out-of-band architecture, we are going to be able to scale to literally
hundreds of petabytes of information.”


Invista will use the new Fabric Application Interface Standard (FAIS) API
for network-based applications to prevent vendor lock-in. To
further accommodate the fact that customers’ data centers may have gear from
several vendors, Invista also runs in arrays made by EMC rivals IBM or Hitachi .


EMC will complete Invista beta testing this quarter, with general
availability in the third quarter this year for EMC Connectrix-branded
switches from Brocade and Cisco. The list price for an Invista configuration
that can virtualize up to 64 terabytes of storage is
$225,000.


Invista will be available for small- to medium-sized companies over time, as
the market proves it can bear it, Lewis said.


Pund-It analyst Charles King said Invista is a unique approach with a great
deal of performance perks. While IBM and HDS may have “over-engineered”
their SAN Volume Controller and TagmaStore products, respectively, King said
Invista is unique because it will support any software from those vendors.


“Consider that the last couple of years virtually every storage vendor has
talked about storage intelligence moving on to the network,” King said.


“I think it’s interesting that EMC is going to switch partners and let
them be center stage. By sharing the work and responsibility, they will also
share the potential benefits moving forward if storage is heading into the
network.”

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