Storage soars to heightened priority

Advanced storage management techniques and improved disaster recovery will be hot topics at next week’s Storage Networking World (SNW) Fall 2001, a conference attracting a veritable who’s who of storage vendors.

In addition, the trade show in Orlando, Fla., will serve as backdrop for a rapidly developing showdown in the high-end storage market between rivals Compaq Computer Corp., Hitachi Data Sytems Corp., and EMC Corp. Also sharing center stage, a new wave of faster 2GB storage switch products from a multitude of vendors.

But the timeliness of data protection in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the importance of managing available storage resources beneath the strain of reduced IT budgets will be an ongoing conversation on the trade show floor.

“In this horrible economy, tools for helping storage administrators better manage their storage will be big. And expect a fairly decent amount of interest in disaster recovery products,” said Arun Taneja, a senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group Inc. in Milford, Mass.

Nearly ever vendor present at SNW is poised to address the management and fail-over capabilities of their products.

For example, LSI Logic of Milpitas, Calif., will introduce a next-generation high-performance storage system at the trade show. Even though the new LSI storage system is loaded with throughput, caching, and bandwidth upgrades, LSI is touting the product’s available data protection features such as business continuity technology, data replication, and snap-shotting. LSI’s own awareness of the importance of protecting vital data drives the company’s sales pitch.

“Like everyone else we are evaluating our own business continuity plan,” said Steve Gardner, a product marketing manager for LSI.

Advanced storage management technologies like virtualization that have the potential to help administrators better optimize their storage resources will appear in new products introduced at SNW from companies such as Compaq, and Imation Corp. Officials for Hewlett-Packard Co. will also be at SNW discussing the latest advances in storage virtualization.

Still in the early phases of development, virtualization is the ability to distribute data across all available storage systems and allocate that storage as needed without regard for the physical network that resides at the back end.

“Virtualization is hot because it will help customers use their storage resources more efficiently than they are today,” Taneja said.

High-end storage announcements from Hitachi and Compaq at SNW are expected to set off a heightened round of competition in the enterprise storage market.

Experts believe new high-end storage products from Hitachi and Compaq will directly threaten EMC’s leadership in the enterprise storage space by offering comparable technology features at substantial discounts. IBM Corp. is also nipping at the heels of EMC with its enterprise level storage products, but like EMC, IBM will not be making any announcements at SNW.

A wide array of 2GB switch products and HBAs (host bus adapters) will be introduced at SNW. The new technology doubles the speed of current 1GB switching products.

While vendors at SNW will try and sell customers on the increased data throughput of the 2GB switch technology, few computing networks actually need the increased speed as a majority are still under-utilizing the 1GB switches, Taneja said.

A key selling point for 2GB switch vendors will be the fact that the 2GB products will be no more expensive than 1GB devices, as they are less expensive to manufacture. But this advantage plays more into the hands of switch vendors than customers, Taneja said.

“The vendor community is keen on moving the user community off 1GB and onto 2GB,” he said. “The 2GB products are less expensive to manufacture.”

Rapidly maturing IP storage techniques such as disk-to-disk backup of block data will also be demonstrated at SNW.

Heralded as a Fibre Channel-killer when it was first introduced, the hype over IP storage technology has settled as the technology gradually finds its place alongside Fibre as an important component of storage networks.

At the trade show demonstrating SAN (storage area network) and NAS (network attached storage), officials for Dell Computer will be vocal about the company’s vision of IP storage in the network.

“Practical IP storage has been building over the last few [SNW] conferences,” said Bruce Kornfeld, director of storage product marketing for Dell. “In our opinion, IP storage is critical for the future of storage networking. We’re not convinced its ready for prime time yet, but IP is real and it’s here and available, it’s ready for customers to start trying, and it’s still a hot topic.”

New storage management software products launched at SNW will also address the increased concern for data protection and disaster recovery.

Representatives for storage software giant Veritas Software Corp., who will also be on hand at SNW, recognize a heightened sense of awareness by customers of the importance of managing and protecting data through advanced software applications.

“Customers are coming to us and saying [recent events] have really jolted me out of complacency,” a Veritas representative said.