The Storage Networking World show in Dallas seemed to me to represent a microcosm of the widespread concerns about the economy. There was a good deal of focus on how to do more with less, and my perception was that it was a quieter, more somber conference than usual. However, that's not to imply that there weren't some significant happenings. Here are some of the items that struck me as particularly notable:
Perhaps the most unique product to be announced came from newcomer Axxana who (to the best of my knowledge) have defined a new product category, the Enterprise Data Recorder . The EDR is literally a hardened "black box" device modeled after the concept of airplane flight data recorders designed to preserve data in flight and add synchronicity (zero or near-zero RPO) to asynchronous replication solutions.
Solid state technologies continue to generate interest with vendors such as Intel, which was demonstrating an order of magnitude in performance advantages with their latest solid state drives. At the storage system level, Compellent's SSD-related announcement was particularly interesting. Leveraging the their fully virtualized storage platform and automated tiering, the forthcoming offering provides automatic relocation of high-activity data blocks to SSD drives meaning that a small number of these expensive devices could reap substantial performance enhancements. Taking a very different approach, Fusion-io offers an SSD on a PCI-express card, in their view reducing the added cost and overhead of a traditional drive interface such as SATA. This naturally positions SSD storage as a server component rather than an HDD alternative within the storage array setting the stage for some interesting server vs. storage religious wars.
Of course, there was much activity related to all things virtual, including an announcement from Symantec regarding thin provisioning support for Veritas Storage Foundation. One challenge with thin provisioning has been the (lack of) linkage between host OS and thin storage, including the ability to reclaim space when a file is deleted. Veritas' thin reclamation API is an important step to bridge the awareness gap and make thin provisioning more useful.
FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet) took several steps closer to reality as several vendors announced certification for CNA (Converged Network Adapter) cards and support for Cisco Nexus switches, and NetApp became the first storage vendor to announce their intent to offer native FCoE devices. By SNW 2009, we should be seeing many more.
The challenge over the next year will be in developing business cases to support investment in a contracting economic climate. All of the technologies mentioned, while interesting in their own right, also have the potential to contribute to a more efficient, cost effective infrastructure.
Jim Damoulakis is chief technology officer of GlassHouse Technologies, a leading provider of independent storage services. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.