Virtualization's sex appeal isn't in the carbureto

I began life in a small Canadian city across the border from Michigan. Two doors down lived a teenager named Greg, who liked to work on cars. With a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his T-shirt sleeve and a butt drooping from his lips, he would lean over the engine of his '54 Chevy and tell me about four-barrel carburetors and four-on-the-floor shifts. And he let on that chicks loved cars.

Later, my family moved to California, but another teen across the street, named Joe, was also into cars. Joe, who also kept a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his T-shirt sleeve, similarly believed that "chicks dig cars."

I was reminded of those early years recently during a breakfast with a few other storage analysts. The conversation turned as it often does to the subject of storage virtualization. This time, though, instead of arguing the merits of controller- vs. network-based, we reminisced about our early days and the presentations we made. I remembered one occasion when I had baffled an audience with charts diagramming the host, network and controller flavors of virtualization.

Then it occurred to us that discussions like that had become passe -- that IT buyers really don't care in the end how a virtualization engine works, just as long as it works and delivers the services needed.

And that's when I thought of Greg and Joe, because chicks really didn't care about four barrels or four on the floor -- no sex appeal there. What they really cared about was getting from Point A to Point B; Point A being boredom, Point B being fun.

Storage virtualization is similar in that people are buying it for the services it provides and its ability to solve a problem -- or get from Point A to Point B. Right now, data migration is at the top of the list of the most popular services that virtualization provides. If it works, the solution is sexy and stays. If it doesn't, it will get thrown away.

In short order, storage administrators will be buying just two flavors of storage virtualization in a box: switch and controller. The box itself will be notably unsexy, but the services inside will be very sexy. Who knows, they could even get beleaguered storage administrators from Point A: chaos, to Point B: sanity.

John Webster is senior analyst at and founder of research firm Data Mobility Group. He is also the author of numerous articles and white papers on a wide range of topics and is the co-author of the book Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence (IBM Press, 2005). John can be reached at

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