“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe about storage. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the storage-rabbit-hole goes.”
As you may know, the blue pill represents staying in the matrix, remaining within the illusion, and the red pill represents escaping from the matrix, entering into the real world. Ironically, the real world turns out to have a very real virtual component to it.
It has been over sixteen years since Storage Virtualization was introduced to the marketplace with a solution that provides the proverbial red pill for storage. It appears that after all this time the world may now be ready to cross that bridge, but I feel that there is still some sense of hesitation. I suspect that this hesitation is caused by a lot of industry illusion, confusion, and misdirection around the concept of storage virtualization (with a little same-old-same-old thinking sprinkled in there too). For those who are willing, let’s investigate the thought process around this and see where the red pill takes us, shall we?
What Happens When I Take The Red Pill?
Taking the red pill will open you up to a completely new way of thinking about the storage world around you. Like many today, I too was initially in denial of what was being presented to me. I vividly remember the day when I was presented with the storage virtualization concept and was thinking to myself, “no way, can’t be, you can’t do that, it won’t work, etc”. It took three hours sitting with some DataCore engineers to undo what I thought I knew about storage and to learn a new way of thinking about storage architecture as a whole. In fact, at the end of the conversation that day, my literal response to the engineers was, “where have you been all my life?”. (That is what we call the light-bulb moment).
If you have not been introduced to storage virtualization before now, you have to be willing to do what I did, which is to put down for a moment everything you think you know about storage and objectively consider the foundational concepts of storage virtualization. If you are familiar with storage virtualization, then I ask you to be very diligent in your quest to differentiate between the many players in the space. In either case, one of the most important concepts in understanding and appreciating storage virtualization is abstraction.
I have written extensively on the concept of abstraction in recent months (Three part series on abstraction), but it can’t be stressed enough. Abstraction is at the heart of software-defined storage (SDS). Abstraction makes storage virtualization possible and storage virtualization makes the principles of SDS possible. But let’s be honest, if storage virtualization is such an amazing technological achievement, then why isn’t more of the world using it? Good question! I often ask myself the same thing. Let’s ask it another way:
Why would you not want the ability to leverage any block storage device from any vendor scaling to any capacity with any performance profile, all while achieving zero interruption to applications and drastically lowering long-term costs? I have no good answer for this question.
What Do The Statistics Say?
Well, as it turns out, I’m not the first person to ask this question. In fact there is a subset of study within the field of social sciences that deals with the analysis of this very thing. Most notably, the theory of Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers. (don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a lecture on sociology or psychology, but it is interesting to mention here).
Or a slightly more layman version of the same graph:
Everyone falls into one of these categories. So where do you fall? Why are you there and does your thinking need to shift with regard to storage virtualization? This is where I challenge you to consider breaking through the statistics and cross the bridge.
What Happens When I Take The Blue Pill?
Well that’s easy to answer. Either all of this doesn’t matter to you, which begs the question why you are still reading this article, or you have decided that leveraging any block storage from any vendor scaling to any capacity with any performance profile while achieving zero interruption and drastically lowering long-term costs doesn’t matter to you. I would in turn be curious to know, do you have something better than what I have mentioned here? If you do, I would enjoy hearing about it.
My hope is that this article has stirred you a little bit to consider the alternatives out there to traditional storage as we know it today. Storage virtualization was and continues to be a monumental market disruptor in the industry. It has been here for over sixteen years. And I will say that if you have already adopted storage virtualization in your architecture, well done… but hold on tight and mark my words, because you haven’t seen anything yet. 😉