Storage virtualization is turning into the odd duck of the IT industry. People keep talking about it, but a lot of confusion remains about exactly what it's supposed to be and what its true capabilities are.
According to recent surveys in the United Kingdom by research company Freeform Dynamics, there is still a high level of enthusiasm for server virtualization, with clear understanding of how it should be deployed and what changes it brings. When it comes to storage virtualization, however, only about half of respondents reported being very clear or even partially clear on the concept. And only about a third say they have deployed it.
Part of the reason for that might be that many vendor claims about what storage virtualization can do are overblown, according to Australian research firm Intelligent Business Research Services. The group's Dr. Kevin McIsaac calls the whole idea of layering virtualization on top of existing storage arrays "seriously flawed" and says that, at best, virtualization can offer a general "abstraction of logical storage from physical storage." In fact, he says that if you think about it, many long-standing storage techniques such as file systems and storage arrays are examples of virtualization.
Of course, there are those who say that storage virtualization is real and can deliver real benefits to the enterprise. Frost & Sullivan recently put out an analysis called "Advances in Storage Virtualization Technologies" that claims virtual storage will be the preferred method of data retention in a few years. Among the benefits identified by research analyst Arun Nirmal are better management and resource utilization, as well as non-disruptive data migration.
One thing is certain, storage virtualization is starting to draw interest among venture capitalists. With virtualization companies like VMware among the few bright spots on Wall Street these days, money is starting to head toward startups such as Xkoto and Seanodes. No doubt, the thinking is that storage systems mark the next major IT cost center that can be streamlined with virtualization.
So is storage virtualization a scam? Most certainly not, but neither is it likely to bring the kinds of benefits to the storage farm it did to the server room. Processing and memory are two different animals. Just because you place them in the same environment doesn't mean they'll react to it equally.