While cloud may be the focus of marketing and press campaigns, VMware server virtualization is still one of the primary growth engines for enterprise data center environments today. CIOs have reaped benefits through consolidation and agility of server virtualization, but have had to deal with the ripple effects of how virtualization breaks storage (and networking). Last year, Wikibon took a close look at the integration journey that is required to allow VMware virtualization to continue its growth by creating higher performance storage solutions that can move into mission critical applications. Every storage vendor has a strong push into virtualization in general, and VMware specifically, and while it is a complex story as to who is “the best”, Wikibon did extensive research to peel back the onion on storage integration with VMware. We have posted the full results of the VMware Storage Integration research; this article and others will add some color to the report.
As David Floyer notes, “This analysis only looks at storage integration with VMware; other factors such as price, reliability, quality of reseller, quality of support, and other storage functionality are not taken into account at all and would have to be separately assessed.” There are lots of storage features such as deduplication and internal tiering that can be useful for any storage environment, but are out of scope for this research report if they do not have direct integration points with VMware. VMware is continuing to mature the overall virtualization solution and APIs, so that in future releases of vSphere (rumors abound about vSphere 5 which is expected later this summer), there will likely be less vendor specific code related to integrations. All integration points are not created equal; Wikibon analyzed both the value of features and how easy or difficult it is to implement a feature. Wikibon conducted a customer survey, spoke extensively with all six of the storage vendors, and conducted many interviews at various industry events over the last year (see over 60 videos discussing virtualization and over 40 from VMworld 2010).
As majority owner of VMware, EMC obviously has a strong affinity for virtualization and puts lots of money and people towards joint EMC/VMware solutions (including an “army” of vSpecialists in the field). EMC has a very broad portfolio of products that goes beyond just storage and every product including security from RSA and backup from Data Domain get integrated with VMware. Some of EMC’s claims of having the largest number of integrations is due to multiple product lines and overlapping software products (such as the many replication and backup products) that are all integrated with VMware; Wikibon eliminated double counting by looking at the primary storage lines, VNX and VMAX for EMC. EMC pushes the envelope when it comes to VMware integration, often releasing solutions through custom software or scripting that in later releases of ESX/vSphere become generally supportable without the custom code. Any way we sliced the data, EMC came out on top for the number of integrations and for the overall value of storage integration with VMware.
Customer sentiment is that storage for VMware is a two horse race between NetApp and EMC. In our scoring, NetApp arrays had less integration points than EMC and HP, but thanks to the high value of the solutions, came out the #2 vendor. NetApp works closely with VMware does less “custom code”, so NetApp’s R&D efforts can be more focused and integrations have a longer useful life than some of EMC’s. NetApp leverages strong partnerships in both distribution and technology to ride the growth wave of virtualization. NetApp integrates well with VMware vCenter and has been bolstering its management portfolio through acquisitions of Onaro and Akkori. While NetApp does not have the broad portfolios of IBM, HP or EMC, VMware environments are a sweet spot for NetApp that should continue to help fuel its growth.
HP Storage is undergoing a transformation as highlighted in this Wikibon Infographic. While the traditional StorageWorks products (namely the EVA) are not dead (HP announced updates to EVA last week at HP Discover), the focus for HP Storage is the 3PAR, LeftHand, IBRIX and StoreOnce products. In the customer survey, feedback was that EVA has a sizable install base, but is not considered a leader in VMware integration. HP points out the LeftHand and 3PAR are newer architectures that are aligned closer with new virtualization architecture requirements than technologies built “pre-internet era” such as EVA, NetApp or EMC. Wikibon research showed that the newer HP storage solutions were not far behind EMC and NetApp and now with the dollars and manpower of HP, 3PAR has the potential to challenge the current leaders.
Management of the diverse VMware ecosystem is consistently listed as one of the challenges – Wikibon was quite impressed with IBM’s Tivoli product line. Being a services-led company, IBM knows how to make things work well at the customer site and Tivoli’s management and security tools integrate well with VMware and provide a strong foundation for virtualization deployments.
Video of IBM server and storage experts discuss how IBM pulls these pieces together for virtualization environments, from VMworld 2010.
Hitachi is a leader in storage virtualization with the VSP product line, yet storage virtualization and server virtualization are orthogonal in customer minds. Both are about getting greater utility and provide abstraction of physical assets. At VMworld 2009, Wikibon observed that HDS’ presence was not strong. At the time, we felt that HDS was prioritizing Microsoft Hyper-V at the expense of VMware, potentially due to threats from EMC. Since that time, HDS has aggressively prioritized VMware integration and reports from Hitachi’s customers are that the products are making good progress in VMware environments.
Dell is transitioning much of its storage portfolio from OEM solutions to in-house offerings from EqualLogic and Compellent acquisitions. As a stand-alone company, Compellent had to wait in line to get code and attention from VMware. Now as part of Dell (a large OEM of VMware on the server side), Compellent has improved access and a redoubled focus on virtualization environments. Dell is very active in VMware communities and has some excellent proof points around desktop virtualization.
Action for Users
As CIOs look to expand the use of server virtualization, storage integrations can help alleviate some of inherent challenges that abstraction of servers causes on storage. The storage industry is working closely with VMware to provide high performance solutions that can span all workloads. Ultimately, the management of storage resources in a virtual environment should become invisible (not undifferentiated, but automated and simple to orchestrate) and the integration points are a good measuring post towards achieving this ultimate goal.