Industry observers say it’s a technology whose potential hasn’t been adequately understood.

Unlike server virtualization – that’s caught on like wildfire – storage virtualization has had limited appeal for Canadian businesses…until now.

But with the exponential growth of enterprise data that situation is changing pretty fast.

A host of factors are gradually turning the spotlight on storage virtualization.

Why hasn’t this technology caught on faster?

Some industry observers believe it has to do with the money and resources being expended on maintaining legacy systems.  

Most organizations spend about 70 per cent of their IT budget on maintaining their current infrastructure, and that leaves very little capital to swap things in and out, notes Debora Jensen, vice-president of Dell Canada’s Advanced Solutions Group.

“[Businesses] are living with the legacy they have to manage and maintain while they’re trying to move to this new world.”   

Jensen says if Canadian firms were able to start with a blank sheet of paper, building their data centres from scratch, “they’d make very different business decisions than what they’ve made thus far.”  

For many companies, though, one decision can’t be put off is: how to handle phenomenal data growth.

It is estimated that by 2011 there will be a need for about a zettabyte of storage capacity.

One zettabyte is approximately equal to a thousand exabytes or a billion terabytes.

With such mind-boggling data growth, compliance with regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley becomes more of a challenge.

That’s why storage is already a “hot button” issue with many companies, notes Jensen.  “And it’s become quite complex.”

In response to these trends Dell launched its “scaleable enterprise” strategy three-and-a-half years ago.

As part of this strategy, the company developed a strong partnership with storage and infrastructure products vendor EMC, and late last year acquired EqualLogic for $1.4 billion.

Dell said it planned to integrate EqualLogic’s technology into future generations of Dell’s PowerVault storage product line.

Then earlier this month, Dell introduced an Internet-based storage area network array that’s the first product from the computer maker’s EqualLogic acquisition.

The PS5000 Series iSCSI array is aimed at midsize companies running servers in a virtualized environment within a data center.

For managing storage, EqualLogic incorporates virtualization technology.

This provides businesses with a relatively simple way to slice and dice disk arrays among applications running on virtualized servers.

Jensen says the big attraction of iSCSI-based products is you can use an existing Ethernet infrastructure for storage (typically storage uses a fibre connection).

Industry observers, however, note that there’s still a big information gap in the Canadian market when it comes to storage virtualization – and many businesses aren’t really clear what the technology is.

Storage virtualization is not riding the same wave in the Canadian marketplace as server virtualization, according to Jason Bremner, director of research for Canadian infrastructure hardware with IDC Canada.

He said in cases where the notion is clear, the benefits aren’t – and as a result, the technology is still having a difficult time catching on here.

Bremner doesn’t feel Dell’s acquisition of EqualLogic will make a big impact on the storage virtualization market, but says it’s good for Dell overall.

 

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