When you've been king of the hill for a while, it shouldn't come as any surprise when the other players try to knock you down. That's what VMware is experiencing as it tries to hold onto its position as leader of the virtualization market.
With Citrix and Microsoft, which is nearing the release of its Hyper-V hypervisor, poised to do battle over server virtualization, other players are taking a bead on the less developed but potentially lucrative storage side of the coin.
Symantec fired a major shot across VMware's bow this week with the launch of the Veritas Virtual Infrastructure, which brings a number of key storage management capabilities to the Citrix XenServer platform. The system provides a number of tools not available to file-based virtualization systems (read, VMware's Virtual Machine File Systems), including direct control of block storage from a guest virtual server, mirroring capabilities across heterogeneous arrays, and improved data availability through SAN multi-pathing. Shipments are expected by this fall at a price of $4,595 per two-socket server.
One of the interesting side stories to the VVI platform is the fact that the original XenSource was planning to add Symantec's storage management to the Xen hypervisor interface before the company was bought out by Citrix. Even though that deal never materialized, Symantec was still eager to take on VMware, and by extension EMC, so it decided to host the Xenserver hypervisor inside the Storage Foundation interface. The combo provides the same management toolset for virtual machines that is available for physical ones.
VMware isn't sitting still when it comes to storage, however. The company is setting its sights on improving specific functions, such as adding snapshot capability to VMFS to aid online backup and archiving. And new tools like VMotion provide for live migration of disk files from VMs to multiple storage arrays. The goal is to increase the ability to provision new storage with each server refresh to take advantage of the most up-to-date technology.
And as the market leader, VMware has no shortage of third-party vendors on its side. Start-up Xiotech recently added the Virtual View storage monitoring system to its ICON Manager interface, which brings management and provisioning of VMware Infrastructure environments to a single location. The system is designed for use with Xiotech's Emprise 7000 and Magnitude 3D 4000 storage systems, allowing users to explore and map all ESX hosts, storage relationships and properties, and automate the creation of virtual disks, LUNs and datastore creations.
All this activity is clear proof that storage is no longer an afterthought in virtual circles. Now that launching virtual partitions is becoming a commodity, the real differentiators between platforms will be their ability to manage data through the larger infrastructure.