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Final (and Somewhat Random) Thoughts from the Spring SNW 2012

This year’s spring Storage Networking World (SNW) 2012 show was unlike any other that I had attended in the past. While I had good conversations with the folks from FalconStor, HP, QLogic, Spectra Logic and Nimbus Data Systems among others, what was most remarkable about this SNW was the lack of notable new announcements around storage.

As one might expect there were a number of product announcements at SNW but there was no one product announcement per se that particularly caught my attention. Rather it was the conversations I had with those in attendance as to how their existing products are being used in new ways, some new features or products that had not previously caught my attention or, in some cases, how their technologies have been “rediscovered.” Here are the five main items that caught my attention at SNW:

  • Data migration appliances seem to be making a comeback. This one is a perfect example of existing technologies being “rediscovered.” In talking to FalconStor and QLogic while at SNW, both have seen an uptick in interest in their data migration appliances. As to exactly why this was the case, neither FalconStor nor QLogic could cite a specific reason. However we speculated it might have a lot to do with many organizations facing the first round of storage migrations since they implemented virtualization 3+ years ago.

Many went from DAS to SAN only a few years and, as such, are encountering for the first time one of the major challenges of SAN management – moving data from one storage array to another without application downtime. As such, their interest in data migration appliances is piqued.

While FalconStor has offered this type of functionality almost since its inception, I was somewhat surprised to learn QLogic was now playing in this space. However users will now find data migration capabilities in the QLogic iSR6200 line of Intelligent Storage Routers in addition to the multi-protocol connectivity that they have historically offered and is available both from QLogic and its OEM partners (EMC, HDS and HP.)

  • Windows 2008 Storage Server is going to get multi-tenant capabilities. In stopping by the HP booth to learn a bit more about the HP X5000 G2 Network Storage System, the HP tech and I got to chatting about some of the pros and cons of the HP X5000 using Windows Storage Server as X5000’s operating system.

In our discussion, I asked how much of a concern it was that Microsoft Windows 2008 Storage Server did not support multi-tenancy. He said to date it had not proved to be a huge problem but that, as of late, they were starting to get more requests for that functionality. However it was his understanding that the next release of Windows Storage Server due out later in 2012 would offer multi-tenancy so the X5000 would support the functionality shortly thereafter.

  • Tape as a backup target is still alive. While Spectra Logic was not formally exhibiting at the show, Spectra Logic’s Chief Marketing Officer, Molly Rector, was in attendance to represent the Active Archive Alliance as well as to present some specifications for tape as part of SNIA. This led to us discussing tape’s role in Big Data and the cloud but the conversation quickly turned back to tape’s use in backup.

She pointed out that many deals in which Spectra Logic is involved still focus around using tape in the backup process – be it a secondary or even primary backup target. Further, as much as 90% of enterprises still use tape in some way in backup and a number who had gone entirely to disk as a backup target are bringing tape back into the backup process.

  • SSD appliances vendors were everywhere. It was hard to turn around on the SNW exhibit floor without running into an SSD vendor in one of the aisles. The one that clearly had the largest presence at SNW was Nimbus Data Systems but of the 50 – 60 exhibitors on the floor, it seemed like a full 20 – 25% were SSD appliance providers.

However in the time I spent talking to them, it seemed each one is trying to differentiate itself in some special though obscure way and convince everyone to pay a premium for that bit of differentiation. Of those currently shipping SSD appliances, Nimbus so far seems to have done the best job of rising above the noise and clearly articulating SSD’s overall value proposition.

  • FCoE may finally gain some momentum in late 2012 going into 2013. One of the keys to implementing FCoE is that 10 Gb Ethernet must first be implemented before that occurs. In talking to QLogic, it seems to believe that 10 Gb Ethernet will finally start to be implemented in more data centers driven in large part by server virtualization and a maturation of the FCoE protocol itself.  

However we shall see. Results from the recent DCIG 2012 Midrange Array Buyer’s Guide still shows less than 20% of midrange arrays supporting FCoE so even if 10 Gb Ethernet is implemented, there is still an acute shortage of storage arrays that support FCoE. On the off chance that FCoE does gain some momentum, it looks like it will strictly occur between the server and the switch until the storage vendors add this connectivity to their arrays.

FCoE Support.JPG
Source: DCIG, LLC

Jerome M. Wendt

About Jerome M. Wendt

President & Lead Analyst of DCIG, Inc. Jerome Wendt is the President and Lead Analyst of DCIG Inc., an independent storage analyst and consulting firm. Mr. Wendt founded the company in September 2006.


  • Greg Beutler says:

    I agree there aren’t many FCoE target devices but they don’t need to be, the switches can sort out which traffic goes to which target.
    It will strip off the IP and send just FC frames to the FC targets and handle that all very nicely.
    It would be nice if were end to end FCoE, but not necessary.
    greg Beutler
    (full disclosure I work for Qlogic, but this is my opininion, not that of my employer

  • Jerome M. Wendt Jerome M. Wendt says:

    Thanks for stopping by and providing that additional piece of insight. I agree that it is not necessary for storage arrays to support FCoE in order for organizations to deploy FCoE in their organization. As you point out, switches can convert FCoE traffic to FC traffic by simply stripping off the IP component.
    However there are two reasons why this end-users see this as less than optimal. First, what is the risk and overhead on the switch associated with this task of stripping out the IP and sending out just the FC frames. Probably minimal but I suspect each switch vendor handles that process just a little bit differently and, based upon my experience in managing SANs, manipulating the packets in a SAN tends to make end-users uneasy.
    Second, what is the cost of using FC in lieu of FCoE and then managing FC? Again, from what I have seen, the initial capital cost of 4 or 8 Gb FC when compared to 10 Gb Ethernet is probably about the same or maybe even less than 10GbE. However, FC requires a slightly different skill set and one that enterprises may or may not have. If they do not have it, do they really want to introduce it. My guess is probably not.
    This is why, until storage vendors put FCoE on their arrays, I do not see FCoE adoption accelerating. In talking to storage vendors, most guess that adding it to their existing platform is fairly straightforward and will take them 3 – 6 months depending on their internal qualification processes. However most also tell me they are seeing no demand for it from end-users.

  • The Storage Networking World show was the one which I wanted to attend. Owing to various reasons I happen to miss it. The five main items that were discussed in the SNW are worth arguing. Thanks for jotting them down. I don’t regret that I missed the show. It is true that many old technologies are being rediscovered.

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