Opinion: Virtualization's evil secret: vendor lock-in

Six years ago, storage virtualization was a nifty technology looking for a market

"Lock-in" is a phrase that tends to trouble users. It connotes inflexibility when negotiating prices and the inability to change on a dime. So why in the face of this stigma does Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) promote storage virtualization technology so prominently in its new UPS-V when it locks users in?

Six years ago, storage virtualization was a nifty technology looking for a market. Early providers of the technology like DataCore Software offered many of the same benefits that HDS included in Monday's announcement, like thin provisioning and the ability to manage heterogeneous pools of storage. The difference between then and now is that user pain points are more acute.

Six years ago, I managed about 15TB on two different storage arrays connected to about 20 servers. Would storage virtualization have helped me then? Sure. But that configuration was fairly simple, and other tools existed that allowed my company to adequately manage storage volumes and migrate data between back-end storage arrays without undue pain.

That's not true today. Large and even not-so-large companies manage tens, hundreds or even thousands of terabytes of storage that possess different availability, reliability, price and performance characteristics. Exacerbating the situation, are many more servers -- real and virtual -- that connect to that storage even though these storage pools are still managed by the same number of people as they were just a few years ago.

Storage virtualization enables companies to manage more storage resources and manage them more effectively. Snapshots, replication and data migrations are no longer nice-to-haves but must-haves for these size organizations, and storage virtualization lays the foundation for a common way to implement and manage these tools. And while storage virtualization locks you in, is the alternative -- being locked out of effective storage management -- really an option your business can live with long term?

Jerome Wendt is the president and lead analyst of DCIG Inc. He can be reached at jerome.wendt@att.net.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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