John Dix: A taste of the Comdex storage smackdown

Eye on the Network

EMC Corp., IBM Corp., Network Appliance Inc., Veritas Software Corp. and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. were recently challenged to send a top technologist to participate in a panel discussion at this year’s Comdex trade show in Las Vegas about enterprise storage trends led by yours truly and John McArthur, International Data Corp.’s group vice president of storage research.

They all jumped at the opportunity, but the day before the event Veritas backed out. Fortunately we had a wealth of others standing in the wings, and Nexsan gladly took Veritas’s spot.

There was no blood shed, but the conversation was often animated. EMC, the big kahuna, took the bulk of the direct shots, as you might expect considering it has the market share the others covet.

In fact, EMC has made inroads into network-attached storage (NAS), a market dominated by Network Appliance. McArthur said EMC just passed Network Appliance in NAS revenue, and asked David Hitz, Network Appliance founder and executive vice-president of engineering, how the hell he let that happen. Hitz fired back, saying he shipped four times more NAS volume than EMC so the real question was, why is EMC charging so much for its NAS?

Brian Truskowski, vice-president of technology and strategy in IBM’s storage systems group, said the deal EMC just signed with Compaq to exchange management APIs was for low-level stuff, and asked if EMC really expected us to believe that the company is suddenly a proponent of openness. “We’re capitalists,” said Michael Parker, EMC’s director of technical business strategies. EMC expects to be able to use such deals to sell more goods.

When a member of the audience asked if iSCSI would supplant Fibre Channel simply because of the wealth of research and development being poured into IP, Jay Kidd, vice-president of product marketing at Brocade, said, “Not in the next five years.” IP storage networks help address some problems, but we’ll have to live with multiple technologies and products for some time to come.

That, in fact, was the larger message: there is no silver bullet. Get used to the fact that your storage strategy will have to encompass a range of technologies. Everyone seemed to be in agreement with that.

Dix is Editor in Chief of Network World (U.S.). He can be reached at