The Virtualization Practice

Storage Networking

Storage Networking focuses upon virtualizing the storage and the SAN while collapsing and simplifying the management and performance of storage. This includes the role of storage virtualization in the Software Defined Data Center, and the comparison of pooled local storage options with traditional network attached storage (NAS) and fiber channel attached storage. Covered vendors include VMware, EMC, IBM, Dell, HP, Cisco, Tintri, and Nutanix.

Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) is better known as an interface for connecting hard disk drives (HDD) to servers and storage systems; however it is also widely used for attaching storage systems to physical as well as virtual servers. An important storage requirement for virtual machine (VM) environments with more than one physical machine (PM) server is shared storage. SAS has become a viable interconnect along with other Storage Area Network (SAN) interfaces including Fibre Channel (FC), Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and iSCSI for block access.

While we may well be on the road towards VMware becoming the layer of software that talks to the hardware in the data center – removing Microsoft from that role, this is not the end of Windows. If Windows were just an OS, it would be severely threatened VMware insertion into the data center stack. But Windows is not just an OS. Windows is also a market leading applications platform with .NET have a far greater market share and base of developers than vFabric. Windows is also in the process of becoming a PaaS cloud – one that will be living at Microsoft, at thousands of hosting providers, and at probably every enterprise that is a significant Microsoft customer. This incarnation of Windows is at the beginning of its life, not the end.

The next true IT industry revolutionary product will be software, virtualization and cloud technology that does not require underlying physical hardware resources (servers, network and disk storage). While we wait for that revolutionary technology to appear outside of marketing or computer generated animations, there remains the need to protect cloud and virtual environments and their underling disk storage. Underlying disk storage includes among others solid state device (SSD) as well hard disk drive (HDD) and Removable Hard Disk Drive (RHDD) packaged in different types of solutions accessed via shared SAS, iSCSI, FC, FCoE or NAS.

Todd Nielsen has already succeeded twice at what he is now being asked to do at VMware – once at Microsoft and once at BEA. This time what hangs in the wind is VMware’s ultimate destiny. Will VMware be the device driver to the dynamic data center (vSphere), or will VMware be that and the next generation application platform for IT as a Service and Public Cloud based applications?

Chad Sakac mentions on his blog that VNXe “uses a completely homegrown EMC innovation (C4LX and CSX) to virtualize, encapsulate whole kernels and other multiple high performance storage services into a tight, integrated package.” Well this has gotten me to thinking about other uses of VNXe. If EMC could manage to “refactor” or encapsulate a few more technologies, I think we have the makings of a killer virtualization security appliance. Why would a storage appliance spur on thinking about virtualization security?

Given that vSphere provides significant benefits in terms of cost savings and business agility, those benefits are tied to and constrained by the ability of vSphere to provide backward compatibility with existing legacy enterprise systems. This backward compatibility makes it impossible for vSphere to provide infinite horizontal scalability. Moving to the same architecture as the most highly scaled out public cloud vendors provides for a more radical set of benefits, but at the cost of breaking backward compatibility for many applications.

The Freemium sales model is a business model innovation best suited to inexpensive products that are very easily understood (and therefore not very new or very different) and that solve an obvious problem in a manner that is more convenient for the customer to acquire and implement. There are not many new virtualization and cloud technology companies who set out to produce undifferentiated products which suggests that a general application of the Freemium model to startups in our ecosystem is ill advised. Enterprise customers should pay great attention to products that are being marketing in this manner to ensure that they do not end up growing the use of something that was purchased in a tactical manner into a strategic use case.

If we are going to start over, why not really start over and reinvent the entire infrastructure and management software industries in the process. That way we end up with an infrastructure that was actually designed for the dynamic, agile, and scalable use cases that we are trying to address with a green field approach, and an appropriate set of management tools as well. Is this going to happen? You can bet that there are already VC funded startups in stealth mode working on it.

VMware’s 5 Businesses and the “New Stack”

VMware dominates the enterprise virtualization platform business with vSphere, and is poised to create a vSphere compatible public cloud ecosystem around vCloud. Layering Management software on top of these platforms is a logical progression up the value stack, as is layering an applications platform (vFabric) on top of vSphere and vCloud. VMware’s end user computing strategy seems to be too tied to VDI to be able to break out of the fundamental limitations associated with this approach, and will likely leave the larger question of how to manage the next generation desktop to the previously mentioned startups and perhaps Symantec.