Storage Virtualization on an SMB Budget

I've written many columns about storage-virtualization technologies and have always received positive reader feedback about them. But all the discussions I've had on this topic have been with IT folks dealing with large-scale storage installations: people whose storage needs are measured in terabytes and want to squeeze every possible dollar savings out of their already costly storage networks.

But recent news from Promise Technology and DataCore Software makes storage-virtualization technology relevant to a new group of users: small-to-midsized business (SMBs), for whom the huge, pricey virtualization products have been, until now, far out of reach. Last week, the two vendors announced their agreement to ship the entry-level version of DataCore's server-virtualization software with Promise storage adapter cards. This means that every one of the thousands of storage adapters shipped by Promise each month will now offer the ability to create a virtualized storage system--at a price point orders of magnitude below the familiar enterprise-class storage-virtualization products.

Promise offers storage cards ranging from simple ATA connections to advanced Serial ATA (SATA) RAID controllers. All these cards will now ship with the DataCore SANmelody Lite software. SANmelody Lite works over any IP network and integrates with the existing OS to offer storage space on other computers, which appears as additional hard drives on the local computer. The SANmelody Lite product, which supports four physical drives, one Ethernet or Internet SCSI (iSCSI) connection, and up to 128MB of cache memory on a single system, regularly sells for $199. You might reasonably presume that DataCore's strategy is to use SANmelody Lite as an entry point for customers who, after they see what the Lite product can do, will upgrade to a full-blown version of SANmelody. The SANmelody storage-virtualization product starts at $1178 and can grow to a system capable of supporting up to 120 physical drives and 16 network or SAN connections.

Using SANmelody Lite in combination with a Promise storage adapter, you could create a storage server that provides more than 1TB of mirrored storage to network users as local file-system space for well under $2000, a price that competes favorably with any of the Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems currently available in the SMB market space. For an SMB that has large storage needs, it would be tough to find a better solution than the simplified storage-virtualization capability that SANmelody offers.

Of course, you don't have to buy a Promise storage adapter to get SANmelody; you can go directly to the DataCore Web site and download a trial version of the full-scale SANmelody product or even buy a copy of SANmelody Lite. The important part of this product-bundling decision is that users who might never have considered storage virtualization as part of their IT business plan will now be exposed to it via the DataCore-Promise offering. Companies who've ruled out storage-virtualization technology based on price alone now have the opportunity to try it out and examine how it might benefit their organizations.

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