Storage Hypervisors and the Technology of Freedom: No Automation without Virtualization

Two political movements, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street (OWS), have been in the headlines lately. Although they come from very different corners of the political ring, they seem to share a perception that there’s a group of people, however defined, that have more than their fair share of power and influence.

They also have in common a debt to what the brilliant communications scholar Ithiel de Sola Pool called “the technologies of freedom.” When he wrote the seminal book by that name in 1983, that phrase referred to the printing press, radio, television, and the telephone, but he clearly foresaw the transformation of these technologies by the computer, a process he called “convergence.” Both the Tea Party and OWS (not to mention the Arab Spring and similar movements) would have been impossible without the new technologies of freedom that resulted from this convergence: email, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like, which enable those who can’t afford a printing press or a broadcast station to make their voices heard with a volume unlikely or impossible with earlier technologies.

What’s interesting to me is that the computing industry has its own “technology of freedom,” which has proved just as corrosive of vendor control as applications like Twitter have of political control. I’m talking about virtualization, a technique that pervades computing from top to bottom, forever abstracting function away from hardware into software. The abstraction furnished by communications protocols gave us the Internet, and helped blow up telecomm monopolies in the process. The abstraction of processors gave us server and desktop virtualization, making computing power a commodity and undermining the power of hardware vendors.

Now storage virtualization is eroding the power and influence of storage vendors. The 99%–the IT professionals down in the trenches suffering with the complications of managing a balkanized storage infrastructure—are fed up. They’re ready to throw their growing collection of storage devices into the harbor—any harbor. They’ve seen the promise of storage virtualization: better capacity management, better performance management, and better data protection management. But they don’t see why they shouldn’t be able to get these benefits across all their storage assets. After all, hypervisors like VMware, Hyper-V, and Xen work with any server hardware.

That’s why the “big iron” vendors haven’t been able to keep virtualization safely locked up in their disk arrays. The genie is out of the bottle with the rise of hardware-independent storage hypervisors like DataCore’s SANsymphony-V. A storage hypervisor unifying all your storage assets—from SANs to NAS boxes to SCSI disks orphaned by server virtualization consolidation—into an easily managed, high-performance virtual storage pool. By automating many of the tasks involved in efficient storage management, a storage hypervisor frees IT for more strategic operations and transforms storage from a business cost into a business advantage.

I’ll be looking at each of the management advantages a storage hypervisor delivers in posts to come, and outlining the business benefits they deliver: risk reduction, improved productivity, and cost containment.

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