Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Storage Vendors Stand Together at CeBIT

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Enterprise IT was dwarfed by consumer, telecom and even gaming technology at the giant CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany last week, but storage vendors showed up in force nonetheless.

In Hall 1 — one of 35 halls reserved for the event attended by more than 400,000 visitors and 6,000 exhibitors — EMC, NetApp, Brocade and others invested in plenty of real estate to get their message across.

Unlike U.S.-based shows like Storage Networking World, there weren’t many new product announcements. So the show was more of an opportunity to see what the vendors were actively promoting.

“Compliance is the big trend in the storage marketplace, and that is driving an explosion in data retention,” says Gerhard Schlabschi, product marketing manager of Sun Microsystems. “It costs about 5 percent to storage data on tape compared to disk That’s really why we bought StorageTek.”

Sun, he says, has been working to provide a seamless view of data within a hierarchical storage infrastructure. Whether stored on tape or disk, the idea is that the end user has the same view. Sun’s solution is called SAM-FS, a storage file system that provides both disk and tape file system access. It is a standalone software product that can be implemented with other applications such as e-mail, for instance. It sets up the hierarchical structure and integrates this into the e-mail system.

“We may make SAM-FS into an appliance in the future,” says Schlabschi, “so implementation is easier and more functions are done automatically. Currently, SAM-FS really needs a system integrator to implement it.”

Ultimately, Schlabschi sees SAM-FS converging with Sun’s 128-bit ZFS, the advanced file system used by the Solaris 10 OS.

“There are loads of specialized file systems out there,” he says. “It makes sense for them to eventually unite into one universal file system.”

Brocade FANs Out

CeBIT marked the first major event since Brocade Communications Systems completed its acquisition of McData and unveiled its branding strategy. The new color is red, with some black and gray thrown in. The logo consists of two red wings shaped into an inverted “B,” much less conservative than the old staid blue logo.

Like Sun, Brocade was focused on file systems — not a surprising move after the storage switch maker got more competition this week with Cisco’s acquisition of NeoPath. Philippe Nicolas, technology evangelist for file area network (FAN) solutions, expounded on the value of FANs as a way to aggregate file systems within a data center so they can be managed centrally via a global namespace that masks the tasks the administrator has to perform.

“Once you have about five file servers running simultaneously, it becomes difficult for an administrator to cope,” says Nicolas. “A FAN makes things easy to manage, as it offers one view of all files yet remains transparent to the end user.”

Server administration, file reorganization or consolidation, for example, can be accomplished without the user seeing anything different. The technology can be implemented as an appliance or as software.

Nicolas explains that FAN is actually a term that embraces Wide Area File Services (WAFS) — a FAN can strictly encompass all the file servers within one data center, or can include WAFS within its perimeter to manage files being accessed by remote offices.

“Most vendors have only one component, they don’t typically have both elements of a full-featured FAN solution,” says Nicolas. “Brocade offers a unified interface to tie together Brocade WAFS with our StorageX FAN software.”

While the company provides WAFS as software or an appliance, it only offers StorageX as software. The reason for this is that it operates out of band via agents running on file servers within the data center.

In terms of competition, Brocade names EMC Rainfinity, Cisco, Acopia Networks and Attune Systems. Each does FAN without WAFS, although Cisco has WAFS capabilities which have yet to be integrated with its newly acquired NeoPath software.

“When you see the big vendors acquiring smaller innovators, you know that a major market need is being served,” says Nicolas. “Brocade is about a year ahead of the pack in bringing both sides of the FAN spectrum together.”

Emulex Gets Smart

While Brocade and Sun extolled the virtues of file systems, Emulex chose CeBIT to announce its Intelligent Services Platform for SAN-based storage virtualization services and applications. Known mostly as an HBA specialist, it has been branching out in recent times with routers, switches, mezzanine cards and now intelligence as part of a strategy to establish itself as a connectivity company. Its latest technology was acquired last year from Aarohi.

Known as the Model 765 platform, it is a 1U system that can support up to 1.2 million IOPS and 1400 MB/s of aggregate throughput. It has four Fibre Channel ports and uses the Emulex AV150 intelligent processor.

“The 765 sits in the SAN next to the switch and offers intelligent applications, starting initially with storage virtualization,” says Amar Kapadia, senior director of intelligent networks at Emulex. “It is like an appliance, but more intelligent.”

This Emulex product facilitates storage pooling, online data migration, cloning, snapshots, mirroring and volume migration. It also includes hardware acceleration technology to speed delivery of information in the data path — a split-path architecture is used to separate the control path from the data path, similar to EMC’s Invista product.

Rather than selling this product to the end user, Emulex is targeting OEMs. Model 765 comes with FabricStream software. It can be sold along with a chip, a motherboard or as a complete system. The first taker is LSI Logic, which has integrated it with the LSI StorageAge Storage Virtualization Manager (SVM) appliance. This extends SAN-based services in VMware and other virtualized server and clustered environments. It will be on the market next month.

“The pricing will be somewhere below $10,000 for the end user, which is about half the price of the competition,” says Kapadia.

He’s talking about a somewhat comparable product from QLogic. Compared to intelligent switches from Brocade and Cisco, however, the Emulex tool is priced much lower. According to Kapadia, the company is working with other OEMs and that more announcements are expected in the near future.

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