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Based on the success of last week's Storage Networking World (SNW) conference in Orlando, Florida, the future of the storage world looks fairly bright. Despite a continuance of tough times for IT in general and faltering attendance at other industry events, SNW once again experienced its highest ever attendance. Over 2500 attendees and 109 vendors visited the show organized by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and Computerworld Magazine.
According to an on-site survey, half the attendees represented companies in the $1 billion-plus revenue range. They were treated to meals, drinks, entertainment, and vendor freebies more reminiscent of trade shows in the late nineties. And for good reason, as storage is one of the healthiest IT sectors right now.
As an example, "there's been a 13 percent increase in storage systems spending in Q3 2003 compared to the previous quarter," says Steve Duplessie, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group (ESG).
Without taking center stage as such, Microsoft's influence was noticeably stronger than at previous SNW events. The company quietly announced that 75 storage vendors have integrated Virtual Disk Service (VDS), Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS), Multipath Input/Output, Storport, and other Microsoft storage technologies into their products. Thus, in a short period of time, the company has moved from the periphery to the storage core.
"Microsoft has added a number of storage-centric features to Windows Server 2003, making this platform much easier to use in networked storage environments," says Nancy Marrone-Hurley an ESG analyst.
"Before Windows Server 2003, Windows didn't work well in a SAN," confesses Charles Stephens, Microsoft's vice president of enterprise storage. "Now it has good integration features and has become a solid SAN citizen."
Windows Storage Server 2003, the new Windows NAS platform, has also done quite well since its recent release, despite only being available from OEMs. Current customers include Continental Airways, British Airport Authority, Wyndham Hotel, AGFA, Police Service of Northern Ireland, and Draft Worldwide.
Overall, however, vendor pronouncements at SNW were relatively subdued. Most press releases focused on tactical and incremental changes. Probably the biggest news concerned the updated Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S) developed by SNIA, which is being tested by vendors and demoed at version 1.1.
"The function of SMI-S is to create a highly functional, secure, and interoperable management interface for multi-vendor storage networking products," states Shelia Childs, chairperson of the SNIA.
SNIA announced during the conference some of the latest advances to the long-awaited specification, including security, performance monitoring, and policy management additions.
SNIA also organized a series of events on SAN management and interoperability to highlight the importance of the initiative, with several vendors announcing their adoption of the specification during the events.
"By leveraging the SMI-S standard, we can focus on developing functionality that provides the greatest value to our customers instead of having to concentrate our efforts on integrating with disparate infrastructure interfaces," said Tad Lebeck, CTO of Invio Software (Los Altos, CA), during the conference. Invio has incorporated SMI-S into its Storage Practice Manager product.
Essentially, SMI-S is a set of APIs that improve integration and enable storage management software to operate regardless of the vendor hardware and software in use. It solves the problem of multiple vendors and multiple device types that attempt to communicate to management tools using such methods as Telnet, CORB, C, C++, Java, XML, SNMP, TCP/IP, etc. SMI-S simplifies this bowl of spaghetti with one agreed upon interface between the devices and the management applications.