Storage Execs: Vendors Must Simplify Technologies

With storage's performance reaching new heights, conference panelists at Network Storage 2004 said vendors must simplify technologies such as SANs and data archive.

MONTEREY, Calif.—Storage industry executives on Monday converged here for Network Storage 2004, a two-day conference focusing on new architectural trends in enterprise storage. The event covered hot topics in utility computing, information management and archive, and iSCSI-based SANs.

The changing landscape in the wider computing industry was also mirrored in storage technology, according to panelists. While vendors now offer faster and more robust storage to address performance needs, they also seek ways to reduce the complexity of storage area networks and archive solutions, executives said.

According to Garth Gibson, CTO of Panasas Inc. of San Jose, Calif., the rising popularity of Linux-based clustered computing is demanding a new storage architecture: object storage. Gibson, one of the Berkeley originators of RAID technology, said he has been working on the object-based storage concept since 1995. He said theres a "flow down from [High Performance Computing] to you and me."

Linux clusters are a byproduct of "supercomputing moving to mainstream." Gibson said his object storage technology works, having tested it with hundreds of devices. "We just need to find a way to cross the chasm. Linux clusters have [crossed over]—object storage is still early," he said.

Meanwhile, Clod Barrera, director of systems strategy for IBM Corp.s Storage Systems Division, spoke of how storage area networks (SANs) are still complex "and each vendor does their own thing."

Barrera cited continuing interoperability problems with SANs, but pointed to the recent "interesting" work by the Storage Networking Industry Association on the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S). He offered that "SAN and NAS aggregation is alive and well."

He also gave attendees a view of the companys on-demand model, a k a utility computing. On demand computing is a "business notion, not a technical one," he said, adding that "the storage guys have a year or two to figure this out."

Here are a few highlights from the panel discussions and talks presented on Monday:

  • The term "information lifecycle management" (ILM) is gaining traction in the market but that may not necessarily be a good thing for customers and vendors, noted George Symons, CTO of Legato Software, a Mountain View, Calif.-based division of EMC Corp. He said "[ILM] is overused —its not a product, but a process for managing data."

According to Symons, companies have been doing ILM for years, "just not well" and that "we need to look at it from an application-centric view." Commenting on the path to ILM, he said "we wont get there this year from a software perspective."

He said that storage was becoming overly complex and that customers increasingly will need help planning and architecting their storage environments. However, Symons warned that there arent a lot of services companies to help customers with that task. "We have to be careful," he said.

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