My View on the acquisition of Virsto by VMware (it’s not because of Storage Spaces)

VMware announced in February 2013 it will acquire Virsto Software. Virsto makes a very clever VM-centric storage hypervisor which is purpose architected to accelerate storage, provide efficiency and simplicity of management. Targeted scenario’s  are especially Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDI). Virsto uses a clever way to accelerate storage performance  by using a transaction log  for random IO writes, acknowledge the write to the VM and then send those sequentially to the storage device. Also the filesystem has very clever technologies which integrate nicely with vSphere.

Soon after the announcement some analysts wrote that VMware took over Virsto because of Microsoft Storage Spaces. While Storage Spaces has some similarities with Virsto, basically it is like comparing a Fiat to an Audi because they both have wheels.

Storage Spaces are designed to aggregate physical disk of all types, make a storage pool and present virtual disk out of the pools. Data can be protected against drive failures by mirroring or partity (like hardware RAID). Also thin provisioning is available. There is no smart integration with the hypervisor.

SiliconAngle writes here

Bottom line: VMware aiming to provide the same type of services that Storage Spaces is providing to Windows 2012 Hyper-V.

Techkudos write in this blog titled VMware Buys Startup Virsto To Fend Off Microsoft.

“One of these better features is called Storage Spaces, which works a lot like Virsto.”
“The acquisition of Virsto, which is 50-people strong, is significant because it helps VMware fend off Microsoft.”

By reading these posting one could conclude Storage Spaces is a very innovative technology VMware really needed in defense.

I think the real reasons  Virsto was acquired by VMware are:

Strategy reason

1. Virsto fits nicely in VMware’s strategy of a Software Defined Datacenter. In such infrastructure all knowledge is embedded in software running on a hypervisor as a virtual appliance. Hardware is just a dump server ,  a bunch of disks in a box or a commodity routing/switch device.

2. VDI attracks a lot of attention but is far from being a mainstream technology. However future of VDI according to predictions is bright. See this article for example with the quote below

More than half of US enterprises are migrating to virtual desktops or considering a migration in the next 12 months, a new study by Visiongain finds

Virsto is an affordable yet very effective and innovative way to accelerate VDI performance. It has an attractive low up-front investment. Licensing starts per 1 TB of storage starting at $ 2.500,-. This 1 TB could be enough for 1000 virtual desktops.

Because of its attractive pricing, Virsto can bring down the high purchase costs which are normally involded in VDI-projects. The hypervisor will be commondity soon and VMware will make less profit on vSphere because of strong competition of Hyper-V and others. Selling of additional tooling like VMware View vCloud Director, monitoring etc  will bring the profit.

Defensive reason

3. Virsto also supports Hyper-V and Citrix XenDesktop. It will be interesting if VMware continues support for Hyper-V or if VMware decides to discontinue support and such protect View and vSphere. Virsto is an attractive and cheap way to start using Hyper-V combined with VDI. Also Hyper-V is lacking advanced features to manage per VM storage capacity and performance.

4. Customers looking for VDI have different choices. Buy all Flash or hybrid storage appliances to accelerate VDI or buy software solutions like Virsto. By bundling Virsto with EMC storage, customers stay with or choose EMC without purchasing storage from one of the many aggresive and innovative competitors.

Innovation reason

5. VMware is developing a new way of storage away from SAN. Local disks are aggregated into pools and data is distributed. This vSAN technology build on the current available vSphere Storage Appliance. Virsto has technology to aggregate different types of raw storage so this could be valuable to development of vSAN.

VMware is also working on virtual volumes or vVOLs. This allows a more granular storage management. Not on the LUN/volume level but on the virtual machine virtual disk level. Virsto has the same vision and already has the technology in production. VMware wil certainly use the technique in vSphere.

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About Marcel van den Berg
I am a technical consultant with a strong focus on server virtualization, desktop virtualization, cloud computing and business continuity/disaster recovery.

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