Was InVista the New Betamax?

The best method of Storage virtualization has been one of the most debated and argued issues within the industry. Nobody argues that while it is nothing more than an abstraction between the storage device and its application, the benefits that come with it such as consolidation, ease of management, online migrations etc. make it a fundamental aspect of the constantly non-heterogeneous emerging world of storage.

Of course virtualization is on everyone’s lips with the advent of VMotion and Vstorage offered by the Server-based storage virtualization solution of VMware. Veritas Volume Manager and SUN’s ZFS are others which come to mind which have made virtualization an inbred of the Storage management arena.

But it was not so long ago back in the pre- VMAX days that most of the debate revolved around whether virtualization should be via the SAN or via the Array.

HDS pushed the way for external storage to be virtualised behind their enterprise arrays extending array functionality to modular systems and setting up the premise for a tiered storage framework via a single management console. The HDS solution works and is adopted and implemented by HP and SUN customers as well wherein storage systems that would have otherwise been dumped in the garbage are kept alive and given a strategic purpose hence bringing substantial savings.

One snag that always remained with the HDS solution was that everything was now tied to the enterprise array which in itself had an end of life and end of support and needed to be replaced with a newer model i.e. what occurred when the USP was replaced with the USPV. Having to replace the enterprise system didn’t now just mean migrating off the one system but also the storage externally attached and configured via virtualization – no easy task.

It was sometime during 2007 that EMC then announced what they termed ‘InVista’. Despite sounding like the title of a new pension scheme it was intriguing to say the least as Cisco in turn launched their compatible SSM modules. So what was it all about – Virtualisation through the SAN.

It made great sense and the concept floored the virtualization through the array argument on the basis of scalability alone. It would also cover protocols as they changed to 8Gb, 10Gb, FCoE or iSCSI . As storage systems would need replacing or infrastructures changed the changing of ports via modules made far greater economical sense than the huge enterprise array which everything else sat behind.

While it doesn’t require a genius to realize that fabric-based virtualisation would enable the appliance to be integrated into a SAN thus making data migration simple, it does require someone with an immense amount of confidence to go against the grain. Therein was the beginning of the end.

Hence like Betamax before it, a product which arguably was a far better and sensible option to its alternative i.e. VHS, InVista seems to have suffered a slow death as storage vitualisation continues to be pursue it’s path through the array.

Did EMC really care? InVista did run the possibility of taking a market share away from SRDF, or was it simply a case of cutting losses and joining the popular bandwagon. Either way the customer seems to have lost out, but then again who am I to argue with Mr.T?