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Storage World: Innovation and Acronyms

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Storage World Conference (SWC) 2006 rolled in to its traditional Long Beach, Calif., home last week. 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 NASstorage pool.

Says Paul Morrissey, senior manager for network storage and software at Pillar: “As a high-availability scalable NAS system supporting NFS/CIFSwith 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 RAIDarray,” 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 WAFSproduct 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.

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