Conference reflects maturation of the storage market

Storage virtualization, in all of its forms, continues to be a growing force, and almost every vendor is striving to capitalize on the server virtualization phenomenon

Every Storage Networking World conference tends to serve as a gauge on the mood of the market and provides indications of trends and directions in the storage industry, and last week's in Orlando, to me at least, reflected a storage market that is transitioning to a mature phase, where new developments are likely to be more incremental - evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Storage virtualization, in all of its forms, continues to be a growing force, and almost every vendor is striving to capitalize on the server virtualization phenomenon. The focus, has shifted to more of a solution approach with an emphasis on solving the real needs, like addressing the imbalance between storage and server provisioning time, improving availability, and providing integrated disaster recovery solutions. Deduplication technologies also continue to evolve with the established players continuing to provide enhancements primarily by leveraging underlying component advances, while others who had promised such functionality are finally taking steps to make it a reality.

Not surprisingly, "green" offerings were everywhere to be found. However, as with terms like "virtualization" and "ILM" before it, "green" is subject to a rather liberal interpretation, including referring to anything that in any way, shape, or form could be linked to reducing numbers of disks, e.g. data compression is therefore a "green" technology. Improving efficiency and saving money are worthy goals in themselves and don't need to be cloaked within a self-congratulatory "greenness" message. Let's reserve the term for true impactful environmental efforts.

As always, there were press releases and announcements. Perhaps the most far-ranging announcements of the week related to the latest developments in Fibre Channel over Ethernet. Led by Cisco, a host of vendors announced strong support for the protocol as part of a unified data center networking initiative. This has already sparked strong reaction in both the iSCSI and Infiniband camps, and the debate over unified network connectivity will rage on.

One announcement that, to me, exemplified the evolutionary nature of the conference came from Xiotech. Who would have thought that the big innovation breakthrough for the show would be an enhancement to the long-established dual-controller storage subsystem? Nonetheless, their innovative Intelligent Storage Element, with its nearly vibration-free design and clever firmware for problem diagnosis and self-repair, shows that sometimes evolution is as good as revolution.

Of course, some of the more interesting developments at SNW often happen outside of the sessions and exhibits. Briefings on unannounced upcoming products promise more products and technologies in development that promise to provide more far-reaching solutions with a focus on areas like strategic power and cooling planning and management, enhanced automation, and others.

The reality of the times is that organizations are becoming more budget conscious and demanding that every dollar spent return substantially more in value. The best of the conference - both in sessions and product offerings largely reflected this.

Jim Damoulakis is chief technology officer of GlassHouse Technologies, a leading provider of independent storage services. He can be reached at jimd@glasshouse.com.

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