Storage Users All Together Now

Reporter's Notebook: Seeking new sources of reliable information, storage managers are taking to SNUGs, a growing movement of user groups aimed at high-performance networked storage in the enterprise, health care and academia.

SAN FRANCISCO—Storage networking may take on a new meaning when considering the quick growth of enterprise storage user associations. This citys initial meeting of a SNUG (storage networking user group) took place Aug. 1, and the first convocation in India was set to be held the following day.

The formation impetus for the groups can be found with an initiative of ISIC (Information Storage Industry Center), a research center located at the University of California, San Diego, in La Jolla. Its online portal is at

This storage networking initiative began some three years ago, according to Allen Springer, assistant director of

Counting the two groups started this week, there are 22 SNUGs now running, with 10 more in the process of organizing meetings.

The group launching in India is located in Pune, one of the countrys technology hotspots and home to a number of major universities.

"Theres nothing like a typical SNUG—theyre all owner operated," Springer said.


The association provides an e-mail notification service and discussion area for members as well as other educational materials. However, despite the open model, the organization is designed to enforce a user-centric value.

SNUGs offer a neutral meeting place for users of storage networks, storage VARs, distributors and vendors to share information and best practices, he said.

According to the membership rules, a majority of the founders of a local branch must be SAN or IT managers; a minority can be from a university, systems integrator or training company.

Although sales and marketing reps from storage vendors were welcome to attend meetings, these individuals cant become founders of a SNUG.

With the sound of streetcars clanging outside, the San Francisco event was held on a pier several blocks from AT&T Park.

The meeting attracted a wide range of attendees, including SAN (storage area network) administrators from local businesses and a product manager of a backup software maker in the area.

With some 30 persons attending the initial meeting, another is already in the planning stage.

"Thats one of the things we like about the [SNUG] model is that its a take your hat off when you come in the door model, the qualification is for someone to be interested in storage. These meetings arent meant to be business development opportunities for people, but instead its a place for people to discuss storage topics," Springer said.

Also on the meeting agenda was a presentation: in this case, one by Dave Ellis, director of high performance computing architecture at storage technology developer LSI Logic of Milpitas, Calif.

The company provides storage management software, RAID and drive controllers, HBAs (host bus adapters) and complete storage systems to companies on an OEM basis.

Ellis identified a number of technology trends that are on the companys roadmap, including new cooling strategies for dense storage systems, wider support for Infiniband in enterprise SANs, the arrival of single hard drives with a capacity of 1TB, and the proliferation of interconnects on storage servers.

On the cooling front, Ellis said LSI Logic is "working with companies to develop and implement technologies that can reduce the heat at the disk drive level."

The technologies include a "vapor cooling capability where the vapor is sprayed across the electronics and collected back up again. And we have doors on the storage that can effectively radiate heat."

Meanwhile, the speedy Infiniband interface is usually found in the supercomputer market, but may make strides against future, faster versions of the Fibre Channel connector used in todays high-performance hard drives, Ellis said.

One driver will be the OpenFabrics Alliance, formerly OpenIB, and its support by several Linux distributions and Infinibands stronger growth path for performance over Fibre Channel.

In addition, Ellis said that trends in purchasing patterns of storage buyers as well as the continuing consolidation of OEM purchasers may change the direction of LSI Logics roadmap and the prices customers will pay for storage.

He warned that further consolidation among the companys partners and suppliers may limit competition and leverage for pricing of components.

A reduction of buyers for a particular technology through consolidation in the market might result in a shift in LSI Logics R&D plans.

At the same time, while much of the focus of storage networking market has centered on top-tier systems, the growth over the next five or so years will come in the bottom of the market, he said.

"We have to adjust our manufacturing processes to develop products that fit into that price point. Rather than going upscale, we have to bring our products downscale. You will see products from us and from our partners that are in the low end and well as in the middle. We will have products covering the entire range going forward," Ellis said.


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