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New Company Enters Storage Virtualization Arena

Storage virtualization, pooling and dividing multiple storage devices, offers administrators new tools for managing storage. A new company, KOM Networks Inc., has entered the virtualization arena today, with the shipment of its first product.

Virtual StorageWorx provides file-level storage virtualization on a variety of storage devices, including SAN, NAS, and direct-attach systems. KOM says that Virtual StorageWorx will be a component of a forthcoming storage management suite, called StealthWorx Suite.

Virtual StorageWorx gives administrators the ability to create virtual volumes on a storage system and set policies regarding how storage hardware is used. For example, an adminstrator can dictate that a volume containing web graphics sit on NAS devices, while a volume filled with old e-mails could sit on a slow tape library.

To create virtual volumes, Virtual Storage Worx uses an abstraction layer between files and block level data on storage hardware. The software constructs a virtual filesystem across the pool, and can easily add devices into the pool. The upper limit for storage capacity is 500 petabytes.

StorageWorx is relatively agnostic in the way it regards storage devices. Any device, from high-end SAN arrays to IDE drives directly attached, can be added to the pool of devices.

Unlike products like Datacore Software Corp’s SANSymphony, Virtual StorageWorx operates at the file level, rather than the block level. It is interested in managing files across the storage pool, rather than raw bits on devices.

Kamel Shaath, chief technology officer at KOM, says that Virtual StorageWorx’ device agnostic approach can aid administrators in integrating a variety of storage assets into the network. “Storage will become more and more commoditized and you need a level playing field in your organization,” he says. Shaath contrasts his product with competitors’, which make assumptions about the storage pool, preventing administrators from integrating all devices.

Adminstrators install Virtual StorageWorx on a commodity NT server. The software does not require agents on server clients, but storage traffic must pass through the StorageWorx server. “This is a first generation product, and it is in-band,” Shaath says, suggesting that future versions of Virtual StorageWorx may be out-of-band, performing virtualization duties away from storage traffic.

“It helps an organization to best utilize their storage hardware,” says Dan Tanner, analyst at the Aberdeen Group. Tanner says that Virtual StorageWorx’ file-level policy setting helps administrators ensure the right device is being used for the right job.

 KOM also announced today that Compaq Computer Corp. will resell Virtual StorageWorx through its consulting organization. Neither Tanner nor Shaath believes that StorageWorx will compete with Compaq’s VersaStor virtualization product when it is released. “VersaStor is a SAN product and does not address other forms of storage,” Tanner says.

Overall, Tanner is optimistic about Virtual StorageWorx’ future in the storage management market. “There is no other file-level storage virtualization product on the market,” he says. – Christopher McConnell

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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