EMC this week unveiled its long-anticipated storage virtualization technology, which the company said will allow users to manage its own arrays -- and high-end boxes from major competitors -- through a single interface.
"This is finally EMC giving in to the fact that storage is going to become virtualized," said Nancy Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
EMC said at Storage Networking World in Orlando that its product, called Storage Router, is a combination of so called "intelligent switches and directors" from Cicso Systems, Brocade Communications and McData and EMC's own firmware. The switch manufacturers gave EMC proprietary application program interfaces (API) to which it could write its firmware.
The switches are among a relatively new breed of storage technology that uses application-specific integrated circuits to crack open data packets, read the information inside and route the data.
Robert Sadowski, a product marketing manager at EMC, said yesterday that the company will eventually write its code to a standard API called Fabric Application Interface that is now being developed by the International Committee for Information Technology Standards. "It's just the right thing to do for the customer," he said.
EMC first tipped its hand about plans for Storage Router at its annual users conference last April, telling Computerworld that it would be releasing a beta version to users the following quarter. On Tuesday, EMC said the router is in beta now but won't be generally available until the first half of 2005.
When it does become available, EMC said, the Storage Router will be able to perform network-based volume control, data migration and point-in-time copies between arrays.
EMC said Storage Router firmware runs on Brocade Communications Systems Inc.'s AP7420 switch, all of Cisco Systems's MDS line of director-class switches and all intelligent switches and directors from McData.
The product will also work with EMCs own Symmetrix and Clarriion products as well as Hitachi Data System's 9900 series, Hewlett-Packard's EVA line and IBM's Enterprise Storage Server, also known as Shark.
Hurley said EMC chose to introduce virtualization -- by creating an abstraction layer between applications servers and storage -- because it's in the network. "Users [in a recent survey] told us they wanted vendors to put certain features on a switch. Anything to do with data management is one of them."
EMC said Storage Router is able to perform port level processing at a rate of 30,000 to 40,000 I/O per second and is highly scalable by adding more processing blades to the switches.
"It's a much more elegant model for virtualization because it fits into an existing storage network," Sadowski said.