VMware launches VSAN for storage virtualization

Donna Wittmann, exeuctive director, channels, alliances and commercial sales, VMware Canada

Donna Wittmann, exeuctive director, channels, alliances and commercial sales, VMware Canada

VMware has opened up the third front on its bid to expand from compute virtualization to virtualized everything, adding Virtual SAN to its ESX and NSX enterprise compute and network (respectively) virtualization products.

The company last week formally took Virtual SAN (or VSAN) out of a very wide public beta that included some Canadian customers, and announced its general availability.

VSAN works in tandem with vSphere, and creates an abstracted pool of storage across numerous machines, essentially extending SAN-like flexibility and performance to storage hosted on x86-based servers.

“By launching this, in addition to vSphere for compute and NSX for networking, we now have the storage component, the third key building block for the software-defined data centre,” said Donna Wittmann, executive director of channels, alliances, and a commercial sales for VMware Canada.

Because it’s dependent on vSphere, nearly ubiquitous in enterprise and upper midmarket companies, the company’s first VSAN target market of its own installed base is a rich hunting ground. It also means the company will be looking to the familiar faces of its existing channel partners to bring VSAN to market.

To that end, Wittmann said VMware is “in active mode right now” getting a broad base of its compute virtualization-focused partners up to speed and up and running with VSAN. Wittmann stressed simplicity was key for VMware in designing VSAN, and that simplicity means that customers easily understand the products and its value proposition, and that channel partners can quickly add VSAN to their lineup. With a bit of sales enablement and training, she estimates any vSphere-focused partner can be up and running with VSAN.

“It’s got broad appeal and its a fairly straightforward value proposition for customers,” Wittmann said. “From a customer-perspective, it’s a two-click install, with a very low TCO. It’s a reliability simple story for our partners to absorb and tell their customers.”

The vendor is counting on its partner base to take that story out to the masses now. Since the majority of the company’s compute-focused partners already have some sort of storage practice or expertise, she doesn’t think it will take very long for partners to get ready with it. Then it’s just a matter of taking that message to the custom case.

“It’s the same value prop they’ve been successfully selling in the past in the compute area, and it extends quite readily to the storage conversation,” Wittmann said.

For a decade, compute virtualization has powered tremendous growth for VMware, and more broadly a great deal of the industry. But as compute virtualization has become ubiquitous, the company is looking at new markets, introducing network virtualization and really pushing on the vision of the “software-defined data centre” it first articulated at its VMworld event in 2012. At its recent Partner Exchange in San Francisco last month, the company really focused on the idea of whole data centre virtualization, with global channel chief Dave O’Callaghan even telling partners to get ready for “the software-defined decade.” Whether that’s hyperbole or not has yet to be seen, but it’s clear VMware sees great opportunities beyond its traditional stronghold.

“These are some innovative technologies we’ve launched into the market, and the growth we’re expending from them is significant. We expect it will greatly outpace industry average growth,” Wittmann said. “We expect that Virtual SAN will be to storage what vSphere is to compute, and that’s the story we’re taking to our customer base.”

While the company stresses a very broad appeal for VSAN, Wittmann said the most attractive use cases are often using VSAN to support virtual desktops, in test/dev environments, running tier two and tier three applications, and for disaster recovery.