Smarter Storage on Horizon?

The SNIA expects major advances in communication among storage devices.

For several years, users have clamored for more management features to be added to existing hardware. Now, a number of vendors are suggesting its better to build smarter hardware in the first place.

In fact, technologies are under development, according to industry experts, that improve the way low-end RAID controllers communicate with drive clusters and that enable high-end array intelligence to reside as objects in central servers.

"The future of the storage industry looks just like the future of the rest of computing," said John Webster, an analyst at Data Mobility Group Inc., in Nashua, N.H. "People build functions, express it in hardware or software, and [eventually] express it in more efficient ways of doing things."

On the low-end storage front, users in the future will be able to consolidate storage, move drives among controller units, replace failed parts and upgrade to new features—all among different vendors and without having to use backup data sets or remap every drive and volume, said Wayne Rickard, chairman of the Storage Networking Industry Associations Technical Council and vice president of advanced technology at Seagate Technology LLC.

Such interoperability will be facilitated by the Disk Data Format Provisional Working Group proposed this month by Adaptec Inc., Dell Computer Corp. and LSI Logic Corp., Rickard said. Creating the standards could take two years, said Rickard, in Scotts Valley, Calif.

In high-end storage, object-based storage is also on its way to becoming a context-aware, native technology. For evidence, users can look to hardware such as EMC Corp.s Centera and software such as IBMs StorageTank.

Instead of mapping logical units, numbers and zones directly between servers and storage, "with object-based storage, the devices are doing all this themselves," said Mike Mesnier, co-chair of SNIAs object storage devices working group and storage architect at Intel Corp.

By this fall, the working group will complete its security and data sharing documents, said Mesnier, in Pittsburgh.

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