VMware's Virtual SAN to address software-defined storage

Storage software turns internally attached server storage into a shared, protected storage pool

VMware has been talking for the last couple of years about the ongoing evolution and transformation of the enterprise infrastructure into a software-defined data center (SDDC). As part of that discussion, the company said it is focusing on three key strategies in 2014: end-user computing, software-defined data center, and hybrid cloud, which VMware called a seamless extension of the SDDC into the public cloud. The virtualization giant believes this IT transformation will present a $50 billion market opportunity by 2016.

VMware also sees a bright future as its server virtualization technologies continue to evolve to enable this market. But the company knows server virtualization is just another checklist item on the way to completing the SDDC. VMware has every intention of working its way down that checklist in order to virtualize and automate the remaining "unvirtualized" components of the data center.

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I recently discussed VMware's plans to check off network virtualization from that list when it introduced VMware NSX. Although the company's network virtualization technology has only been readily available since Q4 2013, Carl Eschenbach, VMware's president and chief operating officer, said he expects to see an accelerated pace of network virtualization adoption as companies move to the SDDC.

VMware continued this push for SDDC at its recent Partner Exchange (PEX) conference, held earlier this month at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. During the event, VMware focused a significant amount of attention on a third checklist item: software-defined storage. Even though VMware already has a number of partners addressing this challenge -- including Nutanix, Scale Computing, Simplivity, Nimble Storage, and Tintri -- that hasn't stopped the company from developing its own technology. Much to the chagrin of its current storage partners, VMware put a spotlight at PEX on one of its latest technologies, VMware Virtual SAN.

Virtual SAN is not new; the technology was previewed during the VMworld 2013 keynote presentation six months ago as a new tier of hypervisor-converged storage. Prior to that, VMware had been promoting a smaller scaled virtual appliance called vSphere Storage Appliance, which gave small and medium-sized companies without a shared storage environment the ability to use enterprise features like vMotion, data recovery, and business continuity. Virtual SAN, on the other hand, is a new product that is built directly into the vSphere kernel, and it is targeted at commercial and enterprise segment organizations.

VMware explained the technology: "Virtual SAN pools hardware resources provided by industry-standard x86 servers with internal magnetic disks and server-side flash to produce fast and resilient shared storage for virtual machines (VMs). VMware Virtual SAN simplifies storage administration due to its unique management approach based on VM-centric policies and built-in automation."

The company also said Virtual SAN is a key building block of the VMware software-defined storage vision and enables the delivery of storage functionality as software built into the VMware vSphere kernel, providing a deep integration into the industry-leading virtualization management platform.

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