EMC Corp yesterday made its most detailed demonstration yet of its future storage virtualization technology, in what it called a “coming out” party for the smart switch-based software.
The Storage Router will support disk arrays from EMC, IBM, Hitachi and Hewlett-Packard, and EMC claims the product’s unique selling point will be allowing data to be moved around within storage installations without needing to bring applications down. Planned downtime is a major problem. Customers can’t function like that anymore, they need to be up 24 by 7, EMC said.
The demo highlighted the cross-platform nature of the product, which like other storage virtualization tools will replicate – move or copy – data between heterogeneous disk arrays, and pool their capacities.
This will ease technical lock-in for array owners, and help free up the disk market by allowing customers to connect say an EMC high-end array to a Hitachi equivalent. It does that. But we’re very confident of our ability to continue our leading positions in every market segment, said EMC vice president Todd Oseth.
Dubbed Storage Router, the product is slated to ship in the first half of 2005, and will comprise EMC software running on smart switches from both Cisco Systems Inc and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. When McData’s smart switch appears on the market, the EMC software will run on that too.
Virtualization has become a hot topic recently. In September Hitachi launched a virtualized Lightning TagmaStore array. This month IBM launched a version of its Shark disk array that has the potential to host virtualization and other applications, and also doubled the throughput of its SAN Volume Controller virtualization tool. IBM claims a healthy 700 customers for SVC, although there is the usual caveat about the difference between vendors’ claimed sales and true product installations.
The three high-end storage suppliers have now made three different decisions about where their storage virtualization applications should run. Hitachi has put its software on the array, IBM has chosen an appliance and may in future add the array as an alternative host, and EMC has plumped for a smart switch.
EMC has repeatedly argued that IBM’s in-band architecture limits the throughput of its device. And as for Hitachi’s approach, EMC said yesterday: If you put the software on a [smart SAN] switch, you don’t need to change configurations. If you put it in the array, your fabric completely changes.
Customers have been very positive about our approach. They think the network is the right place, the company said.
But Bill Pedzus, director of marketing at storage services specialist Glasshouse Technologies Inc, said: Customers don’t know where to put it. They want to be told where.
In the demonstration at Storage Networking World in Orlando, Florida, Storage Router was shown replicating data between an HP EVA array and an EMC Clariion, and running on both a Brocade and a Cisco switch. EMC said it was very confident that the product will ship in the first half of 2005, despite the tricky nature of smart switch development that has already seen Brocade and other vendors’ timetables slip significantly.
EMC described the architecture of the Storage Router as including a control path processor. As in other out-of-band virtualization systems, this dual-node Intel-powered device handles exceptions, and maintains meta-data – a map – detailing where virtualized data has been located. The redirection of I/Os to the correct locations represents 99% of the work of disk virtualization, and is handled by in-line, port-level processors in the smart switch, EMC said.
The demonstration involved a Brocade 7420 device – presumably a beta version of Brocade’s long-promised Fabric Application Platform, a Cisco MDS9216 SAN switch with a smart blade, an HP EVA 500 an EMC CX500, and two Windows hosts. A movie clip stored on one array was moved to the other and back without flicker or disruption to the clip as seen running on screen. The data could have been a movie clip, a database, a RAC application doing reservations and setting locks – it wouldn’t matter, EMC said.
The Storage Router does not yet support long-distance asynchronous replication, but this will be developed in time, EMC said. The version of the software running on McData’s forthcoming smart switch is not yet for demonstration. And EMC turned down ComputerWire’s request to pull out cables during the demonstration, although it said that Storage Router would in any case maintain data consistency.