The NetApp storage hypervisor model fits into the array segment in our view of how storage can be virtualised (further reading). NetApp’s V-series takes the storage controller based on the Data ONTAP array controller software and virtualises certain arrays of its competitors: EMC, Fujitsu, HDS, HP, IBM and Oracle. Customers choose one SAN or NAS protocol, and get a set of standard software options such as multi-pathing, high availability, de-duplication, thin provisioning, virtual volumes, snapshot and more. In addition more sophisticated software options are available to purchase. The storage hypervisor capability lies in these functions plus the standard NetApp unified manager called OnCommand which extends such as deployment, automation, provisioning, protection, monitoring and management.

This type of storage hypervisor philosophy will mostly come from customers who are familiar with NetApp’s management interfaces and concepts. Treating a storage layer using uniform management tools enables customers to architect storage that has enterprise class attributes for efficiency, availability and subscribing to multi-tenancy workloads. Enterprise IT have often been planned along workloads that were kept separate not only for cost/performance reasons, but deliberately kept apart catering for mission critical IT on one platform while less critical on another.

As the storage vendors grew the SAN based functionalities and evolved storage tiering into more sophisticated options the concept of large storage pool became more attractive. The XSPs demonstrated that (1) multi tenancy storage could be rolled out on a large scale, (2) workloads be controlled and (3) better cost efficiencies could be reaped.

It is however not obvious why customers would deliberately purchase multiple vendors’ sophisticated storage to be managed on a third party’s storage controller platform. But up-skilling arrays and customers undergoing M&A in addition to the aforementioned desire for NetApp familiarity are drivers for the array based model.

In our up-coming study we will examine the different models and their relative merits in greater details.

Image Credit: Nelson~Blue

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