EMC has announced the first upgrade of its Invista networked storage virtualisation range. The upgrade, which will feature the ability to integrate with VMWare virtual servers, comes more than two years after Invista was first introduced.

A slightly different version of the software, dubbed Invista 2.1, which adds heterogeneous mirroring and storage pooling capabilities, will be released before the end of 2007, said Colin Bailey, EMC's director of software product marketing.

Bailey said Invista 2.0 offers improved I/O throughput and scalability compared to the initial version. He said the upgraded technology doubles the number of virtual volumes - or what's presented to the host machine - from 4,000 to 8,000 and can support 40 simultaneous mobility sessions, five time more than the previous version.

Invista 2.0 also adds new links to EMC's Replication Manager to automate and provide context around Invista clones in VMWare deployments. "We want to bring together the virtualisation of servers combined with the virtualization of storage," remarked Bailey.

Mike Rubesch, executive director of IT systems and operations at Purdue University, in Indiana, has been running Invista 2.0 in tandem with VMware virtualisation software since August. Purdue runs 150 VMware virtual servers and about 350 physical Microsoft Windows and Unix-based servers.

Rubesch said the upgraded Invista software has eased the process of managing the school's 220TB and 600 fabric switch port architecture by its two storage administrators.

"As we grew, our system administrators had to pick up more and more storage activity." he said. "That required zoning new storage to servers, doing server copies and redoing applications so you're looking at new storage. [Now] you zone it once to Invista and it takes care of" assigning storage.

Rubesch estimated Purdue's storage needs are growing by about 40 percent a year, which forced IT officials to re-think how physical storage is managed, and how it could better use virtualisation technology.

"We didn't have a rational tiered storage approach," he said. "We didn't have the tools to move things around easily. That's going to be very important to us. I look at [Invista] as a way to make this a lot less painful."

Rubesch said, however, that the new version does not let EMC Control Center recognise Invista virtual targets. "That's something [EMC] will have to address," he added.

The distributed Cluster Control Path (CPC) of Invista 2.0 has been tweaked to enhance availability and failover by separating the CPC's physical components by up to 1000 feet, Bailey said. Additionally, RAID-1 mirroring has been added to the virtualisation tool, he added.

The Invista framework also leverages SAN switches from Cisco and Brocade to push IOs to enterprises running storage systems from a multiple of vendors, through what is described as a split path architecture. Bailey said about 200 customers are currently running Invista.