EMC turns up the heat in storage virtualization

Storage vendor EMC has released details about its upcoming entry into the storage virtualization market, provoking an uncharacteristically pugnacious response from seasoned campaigner, IBM.

Storage vendor EMC has released details about its upcoming entry into the storage virtualization market, provoking an uncharacteristically pugnacious response from seasoned campaigner, IBM.

EMC said its Invista software will leverage 'intelligent' switches--which can independently find an optimum location and direct data to it--to create virtual volumes in a networked storage facility, commonly called a storage area network (SAN). This allows an IT shop to move devices in and out of a SAN without necessarily being forced to pay attention to the physical location where each piece of data is being stored.

In contrast with EMC's history of proprietary solutions, customers will be able to integrate Invista with hardware and software from a range of vendors through the use of open application programming interfaces (APIs).

EMC's technology will compete with existing solutions primarily from IBM and Hitachi Data Systems, although each vendor's architecture takes a different route to provide storage virtualization.

Although Invista is still in beta testing mode around five global sites, and availability only slated for the third quarter of the year, IBM has moved quickly to stifle any potential interest in the product.

A three-page statement to ZDNet Australia, IBM questioned EMC's history on virtualization, saying: "For more than two years, EMC has waffled on the need for storage virtualization.

"As EMC grew, they never invested or developed usable virtualization technologies, and while they have been successful in proprietary box-centric storage, their arrival to the arena of storage virtualisation is almost certainly a case of too little, too late."

On that arrival, IBM was terse: "Here comes the storage industry's version of a cap gun."

IBM virtualization spokesperson Gary Barker told ZDNet Australia his company saw EMC as "a strong competitor", and admitted the statement was a little dramatic.

"It's not something that's typical of IBM in the past," he said. "It sounds like we're a tad confident doesn't it?"

Barker said IBM in general was a proponent of open standards, but he stopped short of welcoming EMC's move to open its APIs.

"Of course we don't like to see any of our competition gaining advantage by doing what we're already doing," he said.

EMC Australia marketing director Jordan Reizes told ZDNet Australia that IBM might see Invista as a threat due to its new willingness to work with other vendors on solutions, as well as a lack of scalability in Big Blue's own virtualization solution.

However, Barker denied the company had any scalability issues and questioned the breadth of Invista's multi-vendor support. He added that IBM currently had over 1,000 customers using its virtualization technology in a production environment. -- by Renai LeMay, ZDNet Australia