Storage and DR take virtualization center stage in 2012

Storage and disaster recovery will be on the front lines of the battle to virtualize the data center in 2012.

Expect to see more competitors for VMware’s vSphere Storage Appliance this year, virtualization pros say, as well as a renewed focus on disaster recovery.

“More startups and more products will emerge in the VSA space, where customers will be able to build their own ‘enterprise’ storage without having to rely on [big vendors],” said Christian Mohn, senior infrastructure consultant for EDB ErgoGroup in Bergen, Norway.

“I can see storage virtualization becoming more mainstream in 2012, especially in the SMB market,” said Philip Sellers, systems administrator for Horry Telephone Cooperative. “The full VMware package including local storage that’s virtualized into a [storage area network] -- that makes a really interesting play for the small business market.”

In general, experts say, the biggest changes in the virtualization market will come through storage and will be innovations from new companies.

“I expect a few smaller vendors to make a big splash and a few bigger vendors to buy them up,” said Mark Vaughn, an IT consultant and vExpert.

Some emerging storage virtualization companies are already capturing attention, for example Tintri. VMware’s former executive vice president of engineering launched Tintri in March, and its product, VMstore, is a combination of hardware and software that aims to solve the problems of storage I/O performance bottlenecks and management complexity in virtual infrastructures. At the software level, VMstore presents itself to the virtual infrastructure as a single data store, using virtual disks as its smallest unit of management, rather than blocks or files.

Matthew Lieb, CTO of TuCloud, a desktop virtualization service provider, is a Tintri fan. “I hope to see more competitors to them,” he said. “That’s where the industry should be.”

Other relatively new companies making a splash: Nutanix, Atlantis and Fusion-io. This will spur competition from established vendors and new startups in 2012, predicted Vaughn.

“There have been a lot of advancements in storage, but there hasn’t really been a dramatic reduction in cost,” he said. “I think storage is going to be the next place where we need a cheaper way to do it.”

Virtualization pushes disaster recovery forward
Disaster recovery (DR) is a perennial “New Year’s resolution” for the IT industry, but new advancements in virtualization technology have observers hoping that 2012 will really be the year DR comes to the masses.

Users say they see the combination of server virtualization and public cloud opening up new DR possibilities, provided the price is right.

“I hope we see more of the cloud providers connecting in and backing up whole virtual machines -- that seems to be lacking right now and the price is really high if you can get it,” said Joe Henrich, assistant vice president of technology for a community bank in the Midwest.

Ultimately, Henrich would like to be able to deploy a DR scenario where “I don’t even need to get hold of hardware [to recover]. I contact my cloud backup provider and restore to a cloud service provider such as Rackspace. That would really improve DR scenarios.”

Whether on or off-premise, DR projects seem to be picking up steam.

“Judging from the amount of activity I'm seeing personally, the new capabilities of virtualization for disaster recovery are really picking up,” said Shannon Snowden, consulting partner at New Age Technologies. “Between products like [VMware’s Site Recovery Manager] and Zerto, we're seeing quite a few projects.”

Said another VAR on the East Coast, “We think that this is where the [service providers] will refocus their efforts, as they are not seeing the traction with [Infrastructure as a Service] or [Communications as a Service] offerings like they anticipated and they are seeing DR as the use model.”

As virtualization opens up new use cases for DR, disaster recovery will do the same for virtualization, according to Greg Schulz, founder and analyst with StorageIO. “Virtualization will be seen as a tool for protecting non-consolidated servers -- a part of life beyond consolidation.”

Watch the DR space for new and emerging companies as well.

“We have seen a number of startups still in stealth mode that are preparing to address this market,” said Jeff Byrne, senior analyst for the Taneja Group.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at

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