Storage Basics Heat Up Show

Smart switches, ATA star at storage world.

Throughout the storage World Conference, held in Anaheim, Calif., earlier this month, several important themes came up time after time in discussions with analysts during vendors presentations.

Not surprisingly, these themes represent the way in which the storage industry is moving, and they coincide with many of the things eWEEK Labs has seen during the past year of our storage coverage.

ATA Is Here to Stay

ATA hard drives, which for the most part have been confined to laptops and low-end workstations, are becoming a force that will spur key changes in the storage industry.

With price-per-gigabyte ratios that Fibre Channel-based RAIDs cant touch, ATA-based storage devices can provide high-end shops with a solid storage device for nearline storage. These devices will allow smaller shops with limited budgets to buy terabytes of space at relatively low prices. (See eWEEK Labs May 19 Tech Analysis at

One of the more interesting ATA-based storage devices we saw on the SWC show floor was Storage Technology Corp.s BladeStore, which can scale from 4 terabytes to 160 terabytes and would be a good choice for storing fixed content or for data replication.

Intelligent Switches

If Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. have any influence, intelligent Fibre Channel switches will alter the way storage management is performed in the next few years.

By adding intelligence to the switch, IT managers will be able to manage storage area networks from a central position on the network—their Fibre Channel switches.

One such product is the Maxxan MXV320 Intelligent Switch Platform from Maxxan Systems Inc. The platform combines the power of carrier- class Fibre Channel switches and the computing muscle of a server blade. Prices and ship date havent been announced.

Leverage Buying Power

One of the most interesting presentations we saw at SWC came from Tom Giannetti, director of IS Operations at The Home Depot Inc.s Maintenance Warehouse.

Giannetti needed a system that could handle his users storage requirements while providing disaster recovery and business continuity services. So he loaded a copy of his corporate applications onto a Sun Microsystems Inc. server and visited vendors test labs.

Throughout the tests, Giannetti and his team got an in-depth look at the capabilities of systems from EMC Corp., Hitachi Data Systems Inc., Network Appliance Inc. and Sun. Based on test results, Giannetti and his team decided a Network Appliance network-attached storage solution would suit their needs.

This kind of real-life testing is invaluable, and prospective customers should, whenever possible, put vendors systems through actual testing. Companies including IBM, Sun and others are opening test centers devoted to real-world tests for big-ticket systems.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at