The number of independent SAN storage virtualisation suppliers is dwindling. StoreAge has been acquired by LSI Logic. That leaves FalconStor and DataCore. The leading independent is now DataCore and it has been recording terrific sales for its low-end SANmelody product. The rise of iSCSI as an alternate SAN connect is helping here.

At the mid-range and high-end DataCore has SANsymphony. This is now competing with FalconStor products, IBM's SVC, Cisco's virtualisation facilities in its MDS range and EMC's InVista. I'm hearing that a sixth major version of SANsympony is going to be announced next week and is going to add in much iSCSI functionality alongside the existing Fibre Channel (FC) capabilities. It will also add higher-level and more wide-rangng management facilities.

For example, data center and IT managers have always wanted to manage their storage infrastructures at a high level, instead of administering physical devices at the component or detail level. SANsymphony 6.0 Enterprise Edition, as it should be called, elevates SAN management, control and automation from the arduous and limiting, individual device and volume level, to higher level, logical units with the SAN Infrastructure, such as volume lists, sets of paths, groupings, storage pools, regions, domains, etc., and to higher level attributes, such as high availability, channel paths, etc., on a SAN-wide basis. The result is that IT managers now have power over forests, not just the trees. .

Features:-

- New SAN Domains: intelligent virtual SANs within the physical SAN, which improve resource, performance, and quality of service (QOS) level management.
- ‘Span the SAN’ usability and productivity services, which allow many operations and policies to be applied against entire groups of resources.
- Next-generation N+1 GRID scalability, business continuity and data protection services that surpass clustered or dual controller systems in failover protection and time to recovery, as well as ease of configuration, change and growth.
- Comprehensive, end-to-end, multi-path SAN failover: across FC, iSCSI or both, resulting in “wire agnosticism” without sacrificing enterprise service levels.
- Advanced automation, thin provisioning and smart auto-recovery services that prioritize data volume recovery to speed up critical business applications.
- Powerful non-disruptive data migration and re-purposing capabilities.
- New classes of virtualization services, beginning with Traveller time-addressable CDP volumes.
- Industry-standard storage and infrastructures can be managed as sets of services and shared resources that can be dynamically defined for and allocated to different business units or projects. Quality of Service (QOS) can be regulated and assured to all clients, including virtual machines.
- IT Managers can regulate and automate adding capacity, data protection levels, and performance non-disruptively based on business demand.
- Storage hardware failures can be automatically overcome with no or minimal disruption.
- Business data can be protected with no impact to production SLAs.
- Applications can be provisioned with storage instantly and recovered at the same or remote locations easily – regardless of the operating system and hardware.

And:-

- Tiered Storage and Storage Classes: Heterogeneous Storage Device Management. SANsymphony 6.0 simultaneously supports and can organize through priority classes a broad range of disk storage devices (i.e., Fibre Channel, SCSI, SAS, IDE, SATA, etc.) and vendor independent storage arrays (i.e., IBM, EMC, HDS, HP, etc.) that can be directly connected or switch connected. All SANsymphony 6.0’s high-end features (i.e., synchronous mirrors, snapshots, asynchronous mirrors, static or thin provisioned virtual volumes, SAN Domain controls, etc.) can be applied to all of these different types of storage subsystems under the SANsymphony management umbrella.
- Enterprise-level iSCSI delivering for iSCSI-based networks equality with enterprise-level, Fibre Channel SANs. An industry-first; SANsymphony 6.0’s support for hybrid mixed mode multi path I/O drivers allows, for example, the use of FC connections as a primary path and iSCSI over Ethernet as secondary path in failover scenarios for greater flexibility and additional cost savings.
- Full range of local and remote data replication. Synchronous (real-time) high availability remote mirroring over iSCSI or FC or both. Asynchronous (store and forward)
- LAN/WAN IP-based remote mirroring. Point-in-time snapshots. Fast disk to disk backup services.
- New, high-availability, thin provisioning storage pools enabling a new level of redundancy and data protection across storage pools.
- H/A Support distributed over distances; Co-localize storage to clusters.

DataCore states: "SANsymphony doubles effective disk utilization by pooling disk space from multiple devices and automatically allocating just enough capacity, just-in-time to needy applications. Automating and consolidating storage control easily increases capacity managed per administrator by tenfold."

Beta user's views plus an analyst

Michael Gayle, Director of IT, Calvary Chapel, a beta user, said: “Just buying more hardware would not have solved our problems. We needed a smarter approach that would allow us to control and automate storage across our entire environment, and decided to ‘go virtual’ with DataCore. Once you do so and look back, the old storage box approach seems so primitive. SANsymphony 6.0 made the jump easy. We run DataCore in tandem with VMware and together they allocate resources as needed, where needed, over our IP and Fibre Channel networks. Instead of wrestling with hardware, SANsymphony has made storage a network utility – a service for our users and applications.”

Arun Taneja, founder, president and consulting analyst of the Taneja Group, is bullish about this sixth release: “After the announcement of Enterprise Edition 6.0, if someone thinks DataCore is a niche player, think again! The timing couldn't be better as we see 2007 as the ‘year storage virtualization goes mainstream.’”

More to come

Ziya Aral, DataCore's chairman and CTO, an unusual combination, said: "SANsymphony Enterprise Edition 6.0 is the first half of our Virtualization II strategy, and as such it lays the architectural foundation for the future.” He says it empowers enterprises with a new level of automation and self-optimizing IT management.

“Many of the changes involved in the Virtualization II platform are internal and will remain largely invisible to the user. What is readily visible, however, is a new level of transparency and integration, grouped operations, and automated management. Several new and important concepts also appear for the first time. In the second half of Virtualization II, these capabilities will continue to be advanced and SANsymphony will be updated with an entirely new 64-bit storage micro-kernel.”

Prices start at $25,000 (MSRP) and fully configured systems are priced in the $50,000 to $80,000 range, depending on options and scale. The product will be available on announcement through dataCore's channels.