Digging into IBM's SAN virtualization software,

IBM is continuing to roll out its storage-area networking virtualization software, and last week added support for third-party vendors to its TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller. See http://www.computerworld.com.au/index.php?id=360506128.

But its customers and competitors had to wait quite a while for IBM's homegrown virtualization software to enter the market. In the interim, many customers that were traditionally IBM storage shops used DataCore's SANSymphony and FalconStor's IPStor with their IBM arrays. Often they were quite happy, and while the wheels at IBM's R&D group continued to turn slowly, many customers learned that virtualized storage offered them an efficient and economical way to get increased value out of their IT investment.

Clearly, the marketplace has been made ready, and so, at last, has IBM. In the fourth quarter of 2003, IBM's own virtualization products began appearing in IT shops. The company's Virtualization Engine for Storage, under development for several years, is part of IBM TotalStorage Open Software Family, and comes in three interdependent parts: the TotalStorage Productivity Center, the TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller (SVC), and the TotalStorage SAN File System.

I reported on the Productivity Center offerings last April (see link below). Now it's time for an overview of SVC and later this week we will turn to the SAN File System.

SVC's job is to add flexibility to the SAN infrastructure by creating a single pool of storage from multiple arrays, making changes to the storage without disrupting host applications, providing replication and data migration services, and managing the storage pool from a central point. SVC is now in its third generation, and the large number of success stories on the corporate Web site indicates that IBM has achieved success (and happy customers) in several industries.

Right now, the software's capabilities include data migration, point-to-point remote copy and Flash Copy across the SAN, SMI-S support for interoperability with other vendors' products, clustering support for IBM's High Availability Clustered Multi Processing (HCMP) and Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS). Earlier versions had very limited support for non-IBM hardware, but that is improving to the point where IBM now can manage a set of hardware from EMC (including Clariion and Symmetrix), HDS and HP (larger arrays), plus software from Red Hat, Sun and VMware.

An interesting proof point for this was provided by a French customer, who managed to install an IBM Shark array and the SVC software, migrate data from an AS/400 to the Shark, add storage from an EMC array to the storage pool, and get a system with 20 servers and 1 terabyte of data up and running in two-and-a-half weeks.

As more and more storage is allocated to SANs, SVC can be expected to play an increasingly important role in IBM's drive towards providing on-demand storage.

Next time, we will consider how this works with the newest version of the company's SAN File System.

Mike Karp is senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, focusing on storage, storage management and the methodology that brings these issues into the marketplace. Mike can be reached via e-mail: mkarp@enterprisemanagement.com

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