What Are Storage Vendors Doing at CES?

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LAS VEGAS — Despite its name, this week’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) offers plenty for enterprise storage users and vendors. After all, what IT staff isn’t wrestling with the cost of protecting data gathered on corporate devices crammed into shirt pockets, or not seeing the size of their storage explode with camera photos, Blu-ray training videos and smart phone data traffic?

No sector faces greater storage challenges than the entertainment industry, which has become deluged with data as it moves to a digital and high-def world.

“We need to protect data for 100 years, but I’d settle for 50,” said Wendy Aylsworth, senior vice president of Technology at Warner Brothers Technical Operations, in a talk at the Storage Visions Conference located in Las Vegas with CES.

Aylsworth likened her IT staff to data wranglers, with a full-time job moving storage to its proper place and ingesting it into the system where workers need it. Offline storage is a huge process for Warner Brothers in its transition from film to complete digital production. The company’s requirements include physical media storage to last on the shelf for 50 years and the image format to last 50 to 100 years, with all other support items (operating system, device drivers and so on) to be backward-compatible for 50 years. Storage capacities are spiking, as cameras “roll” constantly throughout scenes in digital movie and television production.

Holographic and Optical Technologies

While no current digital technology at CES meets those needs today, new advances outlined this week hold promise.

Holographic technology, once the domain of Star Trek, offers the possibility of 50 year or greater archive life with the advantages of robust content protection and security. Holographic drives will come to life this year, according to Nelson Diaz, CEO of InPhase Technologies, who announced that shipments of 300GB drives with 20 MB/second data transfer rates are expected in 2009. InPhase believes it has a five-year head start on the development efforts of its closest competition. With holographic enterprise-level drives already integrated into libraries and autoloaders, InPhase said it is demonstrating a life of 50 years in accelerated testing, with no special handling required. Diaz expects a 100-year life to be achievable by product shipment.

With analyst Thomas Coughlin forecasting exabytes in data centers and zetabytes in the world within the next decade, meeting storage demands will be critical. Coughlin Associates estimates that new digital storage capacities for media and entertainment alone will break the 40 exabyte mark by 2014, driven by improvements in content conversion and accelerating of preservation and archival projects.

Pioneer’s Sandra Benedetto maintained that high-density video is becoming the standard for business and industrial applications due to its capacity for six times more picture information than standard definition video, its picture appeal, and the fact that most displays in commercial venues are HD-ready. The collapse of HD options into one format — Blu-ray disk — offers reliability based on a common standard and is influencing cost reductions in both hardware and software.

IDC’s Wolfgang Schlichting expects that an increase in the portable PC market in 2011-2013 will lead to increased demand for slim optical disk drives. With continued internet bandwidth improvements in end user sites, companies that use the internet as a sales and education tool may see their business groups update and enhance content to include Blu-ray, with a resulting need to support applications and store larger static high-definition video programs. New advances in optical library capacities driven by consumer acceptance of the technology may also provide more choices for archival applications in hospitals, banks and corporations, he said.

Dispersed Storage

Take 2,200 hours of live streaming content and an additional 3,000 hours of on-demand video, including highlights and encores, combine with the need to store multiple data formats securely, reliably and forever, and you’ve got the Olympics for NBC Universal. NBC’s IT challenges may not be those of a typical data center, but they definitely sound a warning to other organizations that will soon require a solution with cost-effective scalability to meet capacity and performance demands.

NBC outlined how it chose a storage solution that divides content into pieces and disperses those pieces across a secure network. Only a subset of the pieces is required to recreate the data and there is no need to replicate data across locations to secure and protect it. NBC’s solution is based on technology from Cleversafe, which was awarded a 2009 Storage Visions Conference Award in the Professional/Prosumer Storage Product category for its innovative approach to storing and archiving digital content.

Solid State Poised for Gains

A number of announcements at CES heralded the arrival of solid state storage.

Coughlin Associates estimates that between 2008 and 2013, solid state drives (SSDs) in mobile PCs are projected to increase by 14 percent and be about 2.5 percent of the mobile PC drive units shipped by 2013. SSDs in the enterprise will increase 2.7 times and by 2013 be about 3.5 percent of the Fibre Channel/Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) enterprise hard disk drives shipped.

With an IDC estimate that by 2011, one billion workers around the world will be classified as mobile, including close to 75 percent of the U.S. workforce, notebook computer costs are shaping up to be a real issue.

According to Richard Heye, senior vice president of the SSD group at SanDisk (NASDAQ: SNDK), corporate IT managers are looking to extend the service life of existing notebooks given the current economic conditions. Touting faster speeds than the fastest hard disk drives combined with larger capacities and aggressive prices, Heye maintained that SSDs are poised to enter mainstream corporate notebooks in 2009. SanDisk announced at CES its third-generation family of solid-state drives (SSDs), targeted to be drop-in replacements for hard-disk drives (HDDs) in notebook PCs, allowing the upgrade of existing Windows XP notebooks with a 60GB SSD drive to increase performance and delay additional capital expenditures.

The Storage Networking Industry Association announced the creation of the Solid State Storage Technical Work Group (SSS TWG) to create a reference SNIA architecture and facilitate industry-wide adoption of common requirements, methods and specifications in other standards organizations. SNIA Solid State Initiative Chair Phil Mills of IBM (NYSE: IBM) led demonstrations that streamed 256 DVD movies simultaneously to four 42-inch plasma screens from a single solid state storage card to illustrate the high throughput offered through solid state storage.

Samsung Electronics announced that it has developed a 100 gigabyte (GB) solid state drive for use in servers for applications such as video on demand, streaming media content delivery, internet data centers, Virtualizationand on-line transaction processing. Designed to remove the system performance bottleneck in enterprise storage applications, the high-performance 2.5-inch enterprise drive reads data sequentially at 230 megabytes per second (MB/s) and writes sequentially at 180 MB/s.

The drive uses 1.9 watts of power in active mode and 0.6 watts in idle mode, minimizing power and heat loads compared to typical 15K hard disk drives, which consume between 8 to 15 watts in active mode and 1 to 2 watts in idle mode. The Samsung drive also features a key enterprise storage function that allows all data in the process of being stored within the SSD to be preserved in the event of a power outage.

Measuring Green

Also at CES, “green” computing took on more importance, both in storage and in the manufacture of electronic products.

In a Storage Visions session, Tracey Doyle of EMC (NYSE: EMC) explained why being green is important in a digital storage environment, and how EMC’s IT organization consolidated, optimized and automated for storage efficiency. Beginning with a comprehensive assessment and project plan, EMC evaluated workloads and configurations to determine present and future energy consumption across data center assets that include both servers and storage. Information was shared with green champions throughout the world. Best practices included using disk with virtual tape library (VTL) capacity, using tape for the “greenest” long-term archival, practicing active archiving (keeping static data nearline for quick access), deploying data de-duplication, and replacing older disk arrays with newer ones offering spin down features.

Finally, Greenpeace released its latest survey of “greener” electronics products. Fifteen major electronics brands submitted 50 of their most environmentally friendly new products — mobile and smart phones, televisions, computer monitors, notebook and desktop computers and game consoles — for evaluation. The survey assessed the products on their use of hazardous chemicals, energy efficiency, overall product lifecycle (ability to be recycled and upgraded), and other factors such as the promotion of environmental friendliness and innovation. The Lenovo L2440x computer monitor scored highest in all categories, registering a 6.9 out of 10. The survey found that to design truly green electronics, companies “need to move toward long-living upgradable goods.”

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