Storage Networking World: Bigger, Better and Buzzier

Judging by last week's event, it's little wonder that storage is one of the few IT bright spots. Drew Robb reports on some of the highlights.
Posted November 3, 2003
By

Drew Robb

Drew Robb


(Page 1 of 3)

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 attendances at other industry events, SNW experienced highest ever attendance once again. 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. Storage is one of the healthiest IT sectors right now.

"There has been a 13 percent increase in storage systems spending in Q3 2003 compared to the previous quarter," said Steve Duplessie, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group (ESG).

Quietly Dominant

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," said Nancy Marrone-Hurley an ESG analyst. Windows Storage Server 2003, the new Windows NAS platform, has done quite well since its recent release. Available only from OEM's, customers include Continental Airways, British Airport Authority, Wyndham Hotel, AGFA, Police Service of Northern Ireland and Draft Worldwide.

"Before Windows Server 2003, Windows didn't work well in a SAN," said Charles Stephens, Microsoft's vice president of enterprise storage. "Now it has good integration features and has become a solid SAN citizen."

Overall, however, vendor pronouncements at SNW were relatively subdued. Most press releases focused on tactical and incremental changes. Probably the biggest news concerned the Storage Management Interface Specification (SMI-S) developed by SNIA.

"The function of SMI-S is to create a highly functional, secure and interoperable management interface for multi-vendor storage networking products," said Shelia Childs, chairperson of the SNIA.

SNIA organized a series of events on SAN management and interoperability to highlight the importance of SMI-S. Several vendors announced their adoption of the specification.

"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). Invio has incorporated SMI-S into its Storage Practice Manager product.

Essentially, SMI-S is a set of API's 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.

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