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Another Look

Years ago, when the topic of storage networking came up, someone would invariably say, "Oh, you mean backup, right?" And those in the know would have to explain how SAN and NAS were so much more than just backup facilitators.

Times have changed. Backup, always a vital piece of the storage infrastructure, is top of mind these days, along with its kissing cousin, archiving. (See Backup & Archive: Not Synonymous.) And technologies used in both, such as data de-duplication, VTL, and CDP, are in the news as much as, or more than, actual networking hardware.

Indeed, last week's Storage Networking World conference in San Diego might as well have been called Backup and Archiving World. The big SAN and NAS suppliers, including Brocade, Cisco, IBM, Netapp, and EMC, laid low, while Symantec and a horde of startups climbed over each other to reach analysts and press. (As it was, they didn't have far to climb, given that nearly all vendor meetings took place at the show's press center. Talk about reporting in the round!)

SNW could also have been renamed Data Protection World. That term, used to describe backup, archiving, and compliance products with a security emphasis, certainly describes the biggest trend of 2007 so far, anyway. (See The Year of Data Protection.)

My point – and, like Ellen, I do have one – is that the last few weeks have produced a lot of challenges to storage assumptions. If you listen carefully, the storage industry air is full of questions and comments about widely held notions. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Full CDP isn't necessarily a virtue. NetApp's lack of support for full CDP has garnered it lots of questions, and the occasional criticism. But Jay Kidd, SVP and GM of Network Appliance's Emerging Products Group, makes it clear NetApp's not just making excuses. (See NetApp's Kidd Talks Turkey.) "Sometimes going back to a point in time is good enough, and you don't take a performance penalty," Kidd asserts. We may never see "full CDP" in NetApp gear, and lots of customers may not miss it.
  • Tape isn't just alive, it's thriving. As analyst Greg Schulz maintains, tape storage is one of the "zombie technologies," like Ficon, that not only refuse to die on a PowerPoint click from competing options, but lives on hardily. (See Zombies on the Move.) IBM just announced a new series of LTO-4 products, some of which Dell has OEM'd. (See The Year of Data Protection, Dell Delivers LTO-4, and IBM to Build on Bycast.) And at least one vendor, Spectra Logic, claims you don't even need VTL if you're contemplating enterprise NAS. (See SNW: First Take.)
  • Data de-duplication isn't a cure-all. Data de-duplication is the storage feature-of-the-moment. But, like CDP, it's not popping up everywhere. Several vendors say it's still ungainly and requires too much processing power.
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