Gold said slashed prices were, not surprisingly, another factor attracting a new crowd to storage virtualisation. "The cost of implementations has starting coming down, so while larger organisations were considering storage virtualisation in the past, now medium-sized businesses are open to it. The small guys, however, don't have the same data problems," he said.
However, EqualLogic regional general manager, Chris Casey, warned resellers not to discount the smaller fish in the sea. Storage virtualisation makes sense for these players as well because they are suffering from the same data crunch as their larger counterparts, he said.
"We're bringing storage virtualisation to the mid-tier, our bread and butter customers. These customers have the same data problems, and compliance issues, but they are being ignored," he said. Mid-tier players, meanwhile, wanted help reducing the complexity and cost of managing storage networks, Casey said. The sweet spot was the 100-500 seat space.
"These customers have the same issues as the Fortune 100 or Fortune 500 players. They are having to manage large quantities of data, and may not have the IT expertise [including business continuity, data protection and data management] to do so," he said.
IDC's Penn said IBM is leading the pack locally in terms of implementations with its IBM TotalStorage San Volume Controller. He claimed the vendor had done a nice job of selling a complete storage package and upselling customers on storage virtualisation.
"We have 60 local installations across each sector from telcos to banks," IBM software group sales and virtualisation specialist, Nick Milsom, said. "You don't have to be the big boy in town to justify the cost because storage management is relevant to everyone."
Milsom said storage virtualisation enabled changes to the physical storage with minimal or no disruption - a key customer pain point.
"It simplifies storage infrastructure by combining the capacity from multiple disk storage systems into a single storage pool, which can be managed from a central point," he said.
The fact virtualisation manages large storage environments through expanded scalability is another top selling point.
Milsom said it also offered extensive support for non-IBM storage systems (EMC, HP, HDS) that enabled a tiered storage environment to better match the cost of storage to the value of data.
Big Blue has recently changed its certification process, allowing partners to get skilled up on select areas. This signals a trend towards specifi c pillars of expertise, such as security or automation, which allows partners to become specialised.
IDC's Penn said the majority of customers adopted storage virtualisation for a particular purpose: data migration. Other top reasons included getting access to a single pool of storage, provisioning, and greater capacity utilisation.
But rarely was the sale a big picture one. Most customers preferred a staged approach.
"This is because there's a huge learning curve with the technology," Penn said. "You have to understand the nature of data and the nature of the apps before jumping in and buying virtualisation. It doesn't answer all prayers. Users start small and then grow with layers or a staged approach."
DiData's Altit agreed the technology wasn't suitable to everybody, but said it did offer advantages. "Customers are looking at doing more with less and want storage simplification," he said. The integrator positions storage virtualisation as a business enabler rather than a technology sale. Altit said there were several ways to approach it: chat about fi le server virtualisation, discuss generic virtualisation across storage platforms, or virtualisation across a single vendor.
Sun Microsystems recently conducted research into customer spending around storage in A/NZ. It found 40 per cent of businesses had implemented some form of storage virtualisation. Of these, up to 66 per cent of respondents had implemented disk virtualisation, 23 per cent tape virtualisation and 32 per cent network virtualisation.
Sun storage product manager, Steve Stavridis, said storage virtualisation delivered many benefits and argued resellers and system integrators were the best ones to deliver the message.
Top customer arguments included better utilization of resources, ease of management, cost savings, a reduction in downtime (for backup and reboots), and an improvement in the quality of services.
General benefits include centralised management, streamlined backup processes, consolidated storage assets, enhanced capacity utilisation and data integrity via snapshots.
But it's not the answer for all storage woes, Stavridis said.