Now you can have a virtualised and thinly-provisioned storage area network (SAN) in a total virtual server and hardware-independent environment, as DataCore has released its SANmelody and SANsymphony products as virtual machines.

Virtual server environments from VMware, Xensource, Microsoft and Virtual Iron are supported. Previously, the DataCore products would run as standard applications in physical servers. They could have been installed in virtual machines by skilled system administrators. Now DataCore has made that work unnecessary.

Its SANmelody product turns PCs into IP SAN arrays with the PC acting as a storage controller. The product has thin provisioning to avoid dedicating all of the physical storage needed by an application until it is actually required, saving on disk purchases. IKEA is a user of the product.

SANsymphony provides both Fibre Channel and iSCSI SAN capabilities and is a high-end product compared to the more basic SANmelody.

DataCore's Traveller continuous data protection product is also included in its virtual server offering, putting it into competition with the VMware-only FalconStor virtual appliance.

DataCore's storage virtualisation software works with nearly all storage hardware and can serve that storage to Windows, MacOS, Linux, UNIX, Solaris, AIX, and Netware servers, whether physical or virtual.

DataCore chairman and CTO Ziya Aral waxed almost poetically about the new products: "Certainly the biggest anchor on the virtualisation of enterprise infrastructures has been the physical configurations and complex mapping schemes of storage subsystems and network topologies. It is here that the uniqueness of the DataCore (product) becomes readily apparent – with DataCore, the storage server is of the same genus as the applications it serves. Both strain to slip their hardware bonds in the desire to achieve true portability."

Apart from the prose striving to slip the bonds of press release formality, the products do offer the ability for customers to standardise on a virtual server environment and easily share a server between application and IT infrastructure virtual machines. Provisioning SAN storage to an application in a virtual machine is easier if the storage is also managed by a virtual server as well.

It simplifies SAN infrastructures and shared storage for virtual machines. Test labs and development groups can also easily set up complete virtual environments including servers and SAN storage in minutes.

Aral uses this fact to make the point that: "Storage servers are today identical to all other servers in that they exist primarily as storage applications running on ever-more standard hardware."

DataCore is offering its virtual server software in a 30-day, free trial. Pricing starts at less than $1,000 (£500 with ordinary conversion rates) for a 3TB SANmelody iSCSI Storage Server, including I/O Cache Performance Acceleration and Thin Provisioning.