VMware isn't alone in taking this policy-driven and hypervisor-integrated approach to a SAN. Robinson notes that there are a variety of startups doing this as well, but they take a slightly different approach. Companies like Nutanix and SimpliVity offer converged infrastructure systems which combine other features such as deduplication, compression and sophisticated snapshots into their platforms, for example. Some startups also enable multi-hypervisor support. But, one advantage to VMware's Virtual SAN is that it is "baked in" with existing VMware tools. "Virtual SAN represents a major validation of this approach, and that will be good for all players," Robinson says.
With Virtual SAN, VMware is finishing off the trifecta of its software defined data center strategy. The company is already clearly established in the compute virtualization market with a leading platform there. It bought Nicira and is working on its network virtualization strategy. Storage can be thought of as a last frontier for VMware to conquer, and Virtual SAN is a piece of that strategy.
VMware spokespeople say that they don't expect Virtual SAN to replace an existing SAN or NAS (network attached storage); they see it as a complementary platform that is especially helpful for use cases such as disaster recovery, test and development, and virtual desktops. It's generally available starting today, priced at $2,495 as stand-alone software.
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.