Storage World: Innovation and Acronyms

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Storage World Conference (SWC) 2006 rolled around this week in its traditional Long Beach, Calif., home. And as usual, the show was replete with end users and somewhat light on vendor interest. Surprisingly, IBM, Sun, NetApp and HP didn’t even bother to set up a booth at the exhibit. Despite that, however, about 100 smaller vendors such as Pillar, DataDirect and BlueArc kept company with the likes of EMC, Hitachi, Quantum and Sony (see Getting a Handle on Data).

SWC founder and chairman Daniel Delshad was upbeat about the show’s success. In fact, he has added an SWC East show that is taking place in Boston this September.

“We will now be hosting two shows — one East, one West — to make it easier for people on the Eastern seaboard to attend our event,” says Delshad. “Our focus on end-user panels and case studies continues to attract storage administrators and IT executives.”

Case in point: Harold Shapiro, director of management information services at Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., delivered a refreshingly candid presentation about the early stages of an ongoing tiered storage deployment. He operates a 27 TB EMC/ADIC/Brocade environment and recently digitized a stock footage library comprising both Fibre Channel (FC) and SATAdrives as well as tape.

“Why have FC drives if SATA can give you about the same performance and has higher density?” Shapiro asked. “Our end users didn’t notice the difference when we moved many of them off FC.”

Second-Tier Innovation

With fewer of the big boys on site, there was more room for the second tier to shine. Pillar Data Systems promoted the Pillar Axiom Storage (see Pillar Carves Out a Niche). This consists of management software for storage allocation and three hardware building blocks — a policy controller, a data mover and up to 32 enclosures that provide high-performance storage for a common SAN or NAS storage pool.

Says Paul Morrissey, senior manager for network storage and software at Pillar: “As a high-availability scalable NAS system supporting NFS/CIFS with Quality of Service capabilities, Pillar Axiom is an appropriate platform for multiple applications in different verticals, such as online retailers, Web hosting companies, financial services, or in law firms where you need to store a huge amount of data but must be able to quickly search Exchange or Lotus Notes.”

High performance, in fact, was a common theme at the show. BlueArc, for example, garnered a lot of attention for its Titan 2000, a modular, bladed network storage architecture.

The Titan 2000 delivers nearly 100,000 SPECsfs ops/sec and 10Gbps throughput, with scalability up to 512TB, through the NFS, CIFS, iSCSI, FTP and NDMP protocols, says BlueArc CEO Mike Gustafson. “New software features allow it to scale out with clustering and virtualization by providing a global name space and shared storage pool functionality,” he says.

Similarly, DataDirect Networks touted its S2A9500 Storage Solution, which is capable of sustaining up to 3 GB/s and up to 480 TB of storage. The company has created the Silicon Storage Appliance (S2A) as a building block for high-performance computing, Internet-based services and rich media storage.

“Our S2A9500 is a high-throughput, deep-scale RAID array,” says Mike Abshire, a sales manager at DataDirect. “A single set of controllers supports over 1000 disk drives.”

Heavyweight Strategies

But the big guns didn’t let their more nimble competitors dominate every facet of the show. Several were at SWC laying out their strategic visions for a storage future. Brocade, for example, is very squarely pigeonholed as a switch vendor. Yet the signs have been there for a year or two now — the company’s strategy is to move beyond that.

“We are moving from purely SAN switches into the broader area of data center infrastructure,” says Brocade CTO Dan Crain. “We plan to be the enabler of access to different storage, servers and formats across the data center.”

He points to the fact that Brocade has had a WAFS product available for over a year as well as a Multi Protocol Router. In addition, Tapestry Application Resource Manager (ARM) serves as a link between SANs and servers. It automatically attaches servers to shared SAN resources and turns it on without labor. Such provisioning, says Crain, now takes minutes rather than weeks.

He believes that this is all part of a growing trend towards diskless servers. Eventually, he thinks we will reach the point where all data, applications and databases will reside on the SAN. And Brocade plans to be the company greasing the lines between a multitude of devices.

Symantec is making similar noises. It recently announced its Data Center Foundation that embraces several of its product families, including NetBackup and Veritas elements such as Command Central, Volume Manager, a file system, Dynamic Multi Pathing and Copy Services, as well as server management and application performance management functions.

“We have developed an integration layer that the many facets of the data center plug into,” says Matt Fairbanks, senior director of product management at Symantec. “No one else can do this.”

Symantec’s Storage Foundation Management Server (SFMS) ships on July 10. Instead of spreadsheets and manual provisioning, it automates the mapping of applications, servers, volumes, arrays, devices and spindles across the data center.

Say, for instance, a storage admin was updating the firmware in an EMC array. That would require the suppressing of multi-pathing in order to update the firmware, then the restoration of the I/O paths into the array. With SFMS, this can be done in a few minutes as opposed to many hours manually. Further, a free version of the tool is available at the company Web site.

No storage show, however, would be complete without the requisite beating of the information lifecycle management (ILM) drum. Two years ago, it was EMC that really began the ILM cacophony, and the company has hardly let up since. Last year, EMC announced next-generation ILM — despite the lack of genuine ILM products on the market. Now the company has a new acronym — IIM, for intelligent information management.

“IIM is taking ILM to the next level,” George Symons, EMC’s CTO for Information Management Software, said in a keynote. “IIM is a powerful enabler of ILM.”

There then followed a discussion about data classification, metadata and the problems of mushrooming data. This included the challenges of indexing content, and the necessity to implement policies for protected access. The strategy could lead to yet another acquisition for EMC — perhaps from a different acronym, an ICM vendor. Perhaps eventually we’ll need IAM — information acronym management.

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Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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