Thursday, 2 October 2008

LeftHand - a case for a new application category

HP announced today their intention to acquire LeftHand networks, an iSCSI and virtualised SAN player.

Now, I doubt HP needed to buy LeftHand for their iSCSI technology. I suspect the bigger play here is the virtualised SAN technology they have - also known as the Virtual SAN Appliance. This allows a SAN to be created in a VMware guest, utilising the storage of the underlying VMware server itself.

I think we have a new technology sector starting to mature; virtual storage appliances.

At first glance you might ask why virtualise the SAN and initially I was skeptical until I gave it some thought (especially with reference to a client I'm dealing with at the moment). Imagine you have lots of branch offices. Previously you may have deployed a DNS/Active Directory server, perhaps a file server and some storage, the amount of storage being dependent on demand within the branch. Deploying the storage becomes a scalability and support nightmare if you have lots of branches. But how does a virtual SAN help?

Well, it allows you to provide SAN capability out of the resilient architecture you've already deployed in that location. Chances are you've deployed more than one physical server for failure purposes. You may also not need a large amount storage, but want advanced features like replication, snapshots etc. Deploying a virtual SAN lets you utilise these features but leverage both the hardware and storage of the ESX infrastructure you've deployed. The crucial point here is that you've benefited from getting the functionality you require without deploying bespoke hardware.

So you reduce costs, still maintaining a resilient infrastructure provide scalable support for small and medium branches. The challenge moves from supporting hardware (which has become a commodity) to supporting software as part of a virtual infrastructure and that's a different issue. What you've gained is a consistent set of functional SAN operations which can be overlaid on different hardware - hardware which can be changed and upgraded without impacting the virtual SAN configuration.

I've downloaded VSA to test as I now have a resilient VMware environment. I'm looking forward to discovering more.


John said...

Out of all the blog posts commenting on HP's acquisition, you were the only one that got it right. Great thoughts!


John Spiers

Chris M Evans said...

Thanks John

Appreciate the comment!