By now you may have heard the term "storage hypervisor." You probably don't know exactly what it means, but that isn't your fault. Vendors that use the term to describe their products disagree on the exact meaning, although they mostly agree on why such a technology is useful.
A vendor panel at the Storage Networking World (SNW) show in Santa Clara, Calif., last month set out to define storage hypervisor. The represented vendors sell different types of products, though. The panel included array-based virtualization vendor Hitachi Data Systems Corp., network-based storage virtualization vendor IBM, software SAN virtualization vendor DataCore Software Corp. and virtual machine storage management vendor Virsto Software Corp.
Can all of these vendors' products be storage hypervisors? It's more accurate to say that, taken together, the storage hypervisor products make up an overview of storage virtualization under a new name. And that new name is already giving way to a newer term. "Software-defined storage" was used interchangeably with "storage hypervisor" during the SNW panel.
Software-defined storage is no better defined than storage hypervisor, but it includes the "software-defined" phrase taking over the data center and networking these days.
DataCore Software Corp. CEO George Teixeira said his company was ahead of the current trend when it started back in the 20th century with the premise that software gives storage its value.
"Today we have fancy terms for it like software-defined storage, but we started DataCore in 1998 with a very basic [PowerPoint] slide that said, 'It's the software that matters, stupid,'" Teixiera said. "And we've seen storage from the standpoint of really being a software design."
Teixiera said any talk of a storage hypervisor must focus on software.
"Can you download it and run it? And beyond that, it should allow users to solve a huge economic problem because the hardware is interchangeable underneath," he said. "Storage is no longer mechanical drives. Storage is also located in flash. Your architecture can incorporate all the latest changes, whether it's flash memory or new kinds of storage devices. When you have software defining it, you really don't care.
"Just like with VMware today," said Teixiera, you really don't care whether it's Intel, HP, Dell or IBM servers underneath. Why should you care about the underlying storage?"
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