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LeftHand flings SAN at cash-stricken virtual servers

Virtual SAN Appliance for VMware ESX

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LeftHand Networks is snuggling close to virtualization market leader VMware, to bring a SAN solution to that ever-elusive - and inconveniently ever-cash-conscious - market, the SMB.

Some see server virtualization as a tremendous opportunity to consolidate hardware, but without shared storage, running more applications on a physical server is effectively putting more eggs in one basket. But here's the crux for the little guys: shared storage ain't cheap.

In pace with the imminent opening of VMworld, this is where LeftHand Networks Virtual SAN Appliance for VMware ESX comes in (we'll call the appliance VSA, for sanity's sake).

A virtual SAN appliance is designed to run alongside virtual server applications without requiring dedicated SAN hardware. The VSA clusters the internal storage in multiple x86 servers running ESX servers to create an otherwise full-featured SAN that can be used by both virtual and non-virtual applications. This gives users the high-availability benefits of VMware Infrastructure 3 (such as thin provisioning, snapshots and remote copy) that are unavailable to local storage, but without the cost of physical shared storage.

"We've been working with VMware quite closely about solving a problem they have," said Ben Bolles, LeftHand product manager. "Because of a shared storage requirement, VMware didn't see virtualization penetrating in markets that don't have it."

Obviously, LeftHand is looking at you, small and medium businesses. The company reckons that 30 to 40 per cent of current VMware ESX customers don't have SAN deployed. On the flip side, 100 per cent have internal storage in ESX servers that isn't being tapped. LeftHand is hoping to both comfort the converted and break ground on those holding back on wide scale deployment of virtualzation because of the price tag on external storage.

LetfHand's VSAN is the company's latest offering in its iSCSI SAN family of products, running their home-brewed platform, SAN/iQ. The company said it will carry the same capabilities and features available in the physical storage systems built on LeftHand Networks, HP ProLiant DL320s and IBM x3650 servers.

LeftHand Virtual SAN Appliance for VMware ESX is available now for demo and evaluation at VMware's appliance marketplace. The production release will be available in November for a list price of $5,000 per appliance. ®

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