More Enterprises Buy Into Storage Virtualization

Storage virtualization is gaining traction with Fortune 1000 enterprises, according to a new study that found 35 percent currently use the technology and plan to expand their investment during the next two years.

Additionally, deployment is expected to hit 50 percent by 2009 — a 400 percent spike since in adoption since 2005, according to a new report from research firm TheInfoPro.

Storage virtualization’s popularity is on the rise because it is expanding beyond its initial benefit of providing storage efficiencies, said Robert Stevenson, TheInfoPro’s managing director of storage research.

One reason the technology is wooing buyers is thanks to its ability to reduce costs through consolidation.

“I suspect we will see a drop in the next wave as cost-cutting accelerates and staff availability is reduced to do the big upfront work,” Stevenson said. “But the end-of-year planning will reveal more of the savings potential” due to virtualization.

In addition to enterprises’ efforts to consolidate and centralize storage, factors spurring adoption also include initiatives to boost data protection — particularly when it comes to replication and disaster recovery, Stevenson said.

“Companies want to make servers disaster-recovery-proof,” Stevenson told

The benefits of block and file virtualization are also becoming selling points, since they can be used as a tool to find and resolve application brownouts.

“Disk drives are getting bigger, increasing the probability of issues,” Stevenson said in an earlier statement. “Storage virtualization provides a way to manage this risk, without businesses needing to engage ‘SWAT team’ forensics performance investigations.”

TheInfoPro study found that virtualization is now the No. 4 most common storage initiative — behind tiered storage build-out, consolidation and backup redesign, in descending order. Virtualization didn’t break into the report’s regular top-10 rankings until the technology debuted at fifth place, a year ago.

Despite the technology’s booming growth among Fortune 1000 firms, it’s unclear whether the trend will trickle down to affect small- to mid-sized businesses. That’s because larger organizations typically have the storage expertise to make the technology work.

That expertise is typically not available in the small business environment, Stevenson said — making it a tougher sell.

“The smaller the organization, the less likely it will have a specialized individual for storage,” he said. “You just have business staff making storage and server purchases at the SMB level.”

Vendors, however, are aiming to change that. IBM recently announced an entry-level virtualization starter kit for SMBs.

IBM’s SMB offering came as the latest part of a program the vendor kicked off two years ago, when it debuted its IBM Virtualization Test Drive program aimed at luring smaller customers to virtualization technology in general.

EMC has also made moves to help SMBs adopt storage virtualization.

The company’s CLARiiON AX4 features its Virtual LUN technology, which can be used in connection with virtualization player VMware’s Storage Vmotion — allowing for live migration of virtual machine disk files across storage arrays.

The combination of VMWare and iSCSI functionality could help to foster network attached storage in an SMB environment, EMC has said.

Such efforts to simplify deployment are key to boosting storage virtualization deployment among both mid- and smaller companies, according to TheInfoPro.

The study found that complexity and management hurdles are primary reasons that even some Fortune 1000 organizations have been leery of exploring the technology.

Worries about coordinating necessary downtime and application disruption are especially troublesome, Stevenson said.

“It is not a transparent deployment,” he said, citing the “introduction of another layer of indirection” as a major difficulty when it comes to “complexity management and potential latency in performance.”

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