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Storage Virtualization Takes Steps Forward

Storage Virtualization Adoption

Anyone wonder why storage virtualization is still growing relatively slowly while server virtualization platforms like VMware have gone on a tear? If so, a look at the licensing strategies that these two respective virtualization technologies have adopted provides some insight into why.

In server virtualization, once a software feature is licensed, it is available to all of the virtual machines (VMs) hosted by that server virtualization OS. Granted, there is a caveat in that the software license pricing is dependent upon the number of CPUs in the physical host. In the case of VMware, it licenses its software in pairs with 2, 4, 8 and 16 license combinations so the price does go up as more CPUs are added to the physical host.

Conversely many storage virtualization software licensing models are based upon a capacity based model. Under this licensing model, an organization may initially buy 10 TBs of storage capacity and some software features to go with it (volume management, snapshots and possibly replication).

Yet what happens with the storage virtualization licensing model is that if more storage capacity is purchased (say another 10 TBs), the organization must purchase new additional capacity licenses in order for their existing software licenses for volume management, snapshot or replication software to work with that new storage capacity.

This is not wrong, per se, but companies vote with their check books and based on the rapid adoption of server virtualization, it suggests that this is the licensing model clearly preferred by companies. After all, if server virtualization and its associated costs didn't make economic sense, companies would not do it. However, it appears that the server virtualization licensing model is more palatable to end-users than the one currently offered by many storage virtualization providers.

To understand why this it is and what needs to change, two questions need to be answered:

· Why is the processing-based licensing model more acceptable to companies?

· What changes are storage virtualization providers making to their licensing models?

In response to the first question, a server virtualization OS such as VMware allows organizations to create as many VMs as they want on a single physical host. As long as there is adequate processing power on the physical host to keep up with the demand of each application on each VM, the server virtualization software does not restrict them from adding more VMs or using the features found in its OS with all of these VMs.

This is where the licensing model associated with storage virtualization looks to need some changes. Users view new storage capacity in much the same context as they view new VMs - as long as they have ample processing power, why should they be penalized if they add more storage capacity?

In the same manner, if companies purchase more storage capacity and now need more CPUs to support new features like asynchronous replication or snapshots, I suspect they will be more inclined to pay for new software licenses. However as long as storage virtualization providers continue to tie software licensing for new features solely to growth in storage capacity, this can only serve to slow its adoption.

One storage virtualization provider that is looking to change this trend in storage virtualization licensing practices is RELDATA. It has recently changed its software model so that when you license the software features with a base unit, all of those features are available regardless of how much storage capacity an organization adds in the future.

So for example, the MSRP for its 9240i is approximately $25K which includes software licensing for iSCSI, unlimited snapshots and twelve (12) 1 TB SAS drives. But because of RELDATA's new "Save as you Grow" program, organizations can now add more capacity to the 9240i without needing to pay more to use its iSCSI or snapshots features in conjunction with their newly added storage capacity. Further, if an organization does opt to add another software feature, such as replication, at some point in the future, it can also be used with all storage capacity under that the 9240i's management.

No matter how great or wonderful a new technology is (and virtualization certainly falls into that category), its adoption is often impeded by costly licensing models that preclude its broader adoption. RELDATA's recent decision to remove this software licensing barrier to the adoption of storage virtualization is representative of a step in the right direction for users. It encourages them to implement and take advantage of storage virtualization without worrying about any hidden licensing costs lurking in the background should they decide to add more performance or storage capacity in the future.

More Stories By Joe Austin

Joe Austin is Vice President, Client Relations, at Ventana Public Relations. He joined Ventana PR in 2006 with more than 14 years experience in high-tech strategic communications. His media relations experience spans both broadcast and print, and he maintains longstanding relationships with editors and reporters at business, IT, channel, and vertical publications. Austin's relationship with the media includes marquee outlets including CNN, BusinessWeek, USA Today, Bloomberg, and the Associated Press for clients ranging from startups to billion-dollar enterprises. Experience includes working with Maxell, McDATA (Acquired by Brocade), Center for Internet Security, Securent (Acquired by Cisco), Intrepidus Group/PhishMe, FireEye, Mimosa Systems, Xiotech, MOLI.com, EMC/Rainfinity, Spinnaker Networks (Acquired by NetApp), ONStor, Nexsan, Asigra, Avamar (Acquired by EMC), BakBone Software, Dot Hill, SANRAD, Open-E and others. With more than a decade of strategic planning, media tours, press conferences, and media/analyst relations for companies in the data storage, security, server virtualization, IT outsourcing and networking arenas, Austin's domain expertise assists in positioning clients for leadership. Austin was recently recognized as a “Top Tech Communicator” for the second year in a row by PRSourceCode. The editorial community – represented by more than 300 participating IT journalists – rated each winner based on best overall performance and recognized those who added the most value to their editorial processes in terms of responsiveness, reliability, and overall understanding of editorial needs.

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