Shortly after the recent VMware vSphere 4.1 and VAAI announcements, I had an epiphany. It dawned on me that tight integration with VMware, as well as being seen to be part of the VMware inner circle is now absolutely critical for storage vendors.
NOTE: If you're not sure, VAAI is an important part of the VMware vStorage API enabling offloads to the storage hardware for certain functions. VAAI stands for vStorage API for Array Integration.)
Well and truly gone are the days where the most important announcements relating to product refreshes were hardware related such as new CPUs, increased internal bandwidths and (arguably) artificially inflated feeds and speeds etc. In today's world, integration with services higher up the stack are where the bragging rights are, and VMware is probably King at the moment.
If your storage array doesn't tightly integrate with VMware, or your vendor doesn't appear to be part of the VMware inner circle, you may be justified in wondering how strategic your product is.
To storage customers, I recommend that when gathering and compiling your requirements that you use when choosing storage vendors and platforms, that you have requirements such as tight VMware integration right at the top of your list.
The same goes for storage vendors. Those vendors who announced VAAI integration/support will no dcoubt have been sipping champagne and basking in the knowledge that their customers were feeling secure in their investments. On the other hand, those vendors were conspicuously quiet, were left very much on the outside and stressing over whether or not their customers were re-evaluating their preferred storage vendor(s).
Of course there are other non-VMware features and APIs that are important too, it just seems VMware is where most of the buzz and growth is at the moment.
Finally, hardware upgrades and the likes are still important, just less so than integration with features such as those provided by VAAI. Hardware improvements should be demonstrated to enable better support of features further up the stack (such as VAAI)