One of the things we used to discuss, when I was running the storage research practice at IDC, was “When will a market disappear and just become a feature of some larger market?”  Examples are numerous.  Remember when there was a market for browser software? And, while NetApp is going strong, both Microsoft and Sun Microsystems are trying to make NAS a feature of the operating system.

One of the reasons I joined the board of StorMagic was that I saw the potential for the company to be a market disruptor.  Today, StorMagic announced SvSAN software, which, when installed on a VMware ESX server, converts the internal storage of the ESX server into an iSCSI SAN.  VMware leverages the fact that most single applications don’t need all the computing power of today’s servers.  SvSAN leverages that same fact to provide the storage management function within the ESX server, and also takes advantage of the fact that the internal storage capacity of an ESX server, perhaps the least expensive storage you will ever purchase, is more than enough capacity for a large number of VMware ESX server-hosted applications. 

The natural progression of processor, memory, interconnect, hard disk drive, and solid state disk performance and capacity improvements will continue to expand the range of applications that can be run with storage as a feature of the server using SvSAN.  Until then, StorMagic offers simple extension of the SvSAN and automated, non-disruptive migration to external storage, once capacity or performance requirements exceed the limits of the server’s internal storage.

If you took my advice and read Dave Hitz’ recent book, How to Castrate a Bull, you will know that he attributes much of NetApp’s early success to the fact that NetApp filers were simpler to manage than SANs.  StorMagic takes this principle even further by allowing customers to use what they already know how to do.  It’s kind of like, “Why should I have three remotes when one universal remote will do the job quite nicely, thank you very much?”   With StorMagic’s SvSAN, users can manage the shared storage from VMware’s vCenter console – something they do every day. StorMagic has designed a plug in that allows users to select the “StorMagic” tab on the vCenter console and manage the SvSAN, datastores and the internal RAID right from the console. For the typical mid-sized company, that’s got to be better than using three different applications (vCenter, RAID management software, and SAN management software). In addition to integrating the management function, StorMagic has also automated routine tasks like provisioning datastores and configuring high availability.

Oh, yes. There’s one other thing that gives StorMagic the capability to be a storage market disruptor.  The initial software license for managing 2TBs of internal storage is currently free.  Now, go ask your friends over at ESG to tell you what their research showed was the typical storage capacity for VMware customers.

While the SAN market will continue to exist and probably grow for years to come, for some, the SAN just became a feature of the server.