Facing the NASty Facts of Home Storage

Our collection of personal digital content keeps growing as does that stack of peripherals. Networking industry veteran Michael Krieger, now vice president of Ziff Davis Media's Market Experts Group, thinks he may have spied a solution at the recent CES

Editors Note: Michael Krieger is vice president of Ziff Davis Medias Market Experts Group. This group serves our sales organization by providing advertisers with consulting, insight and data about market trends and conditions. Because of their sales focus and to avoid any possible conflict of interest, these experts dont often write content for our sites. However, Michaels strong background in technology product development and marketing at FutureLink, AST and Hitachi Data Systems convinced us that his insight would add depth to our Storage Supersite.

Having spent about 30 years playing with computers, Ive become somewhat of a storage geek. I still have the first digital computer storage I ever used—punch cards from Fortran programs I wrote while in high school. Recently, Ive begun to wonder if theres a better way to manage centrally all the newer 21st Century digital content Ive managed to amass at home, from sources including my TiVo DVR, game console, digital camera, three networked PCs and tons of MP3 music files, just to name a few. Wheres my home storage solution?

Of course, theres a panoply of hardware and software products on the market today to network and manage enterprise storage, from virtualization products to Storage Resource Management (SRM) solutions designed to let IT managers utilize capacity in SANs and NAS more effectively. Were well on the way to solve this problem on the job, although we still could use pervasive standards. Still, things are a lot better then they were just a couple of years ago.

At home, though, its a different story.

A while ago, I bought a small NAS server, which gave me additional storage for my networked PCs. However, its 30GB (quite a lot of storage at the time) soon became inadequate for my needs. Eventually, I just put a much larger disk in my home server PC—it being with one with the largest disk in the first place. Now I use it to back up the files from the other PCs. Still, that move only addresses a small part of the storage management problem I have at home.

Another significant problem goes beyond primary storage, instead involving the connectivity between my various digital devices that use storage. I have a collection of new and old devices, including PDAs with serial cables, cameras with USB, DVRs with IEEE 1394. There just hasnt been an easy way to connect all these pieces of digital gear to a single storage system.

For example, the NAS worked fine as a Windows file server, but it didnt address any of the other devices, particularly my TiVo, which I also recently upgraded. The NAS became just one more device in the mix.

But help for digital junkies may be on the way, thanks to good ol TCP/IP. At this years Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, startup Zetera Corp., demonstrated a product they say will solve this "convergence storage" problem by creating a "micro-SAN" designed to mimic the different storage media for a variety of devices from set-top boxes to digital cameras.

Zeteras micro-SAN is based on Ethernet and TCP/IP. Founded by a group of ex-Western Digital engineers, the company is banking on the ubiquity of standard networking technology, both wired and wireless, to provide the missing link, letting us connect all our digital tools to a single device that can be easily managed and provide virtually limitless growth in capacity.

Like so many other issues relating to storage, the answer is all about widespread standards. Until Zetera and others can get the various consumer electronics companies to agree on connectivity standards as the way to go—even for widespread ones such as Ethernet and TCP/IP—I must wait poised, screwdriver in hand, for the next upgrade in storage capacity to my digital camera, MP3 player and DVR.