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CTOs Look Outside the Box

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Hardware will play a bit part in the future of storage networking, according to a panel of CTOs from six storage networking companies at the Storage World Conference/ASNP Summit here Wednesday.

It was no surprise to hear George Symons of Legato Software say, "Any piece of hardware is an opportunity to wrap around software." But the hardware vendors also supported this view.

When asked what they considered the most significant or disruptive trend in storage, nearly all mentioned some form of software: Jay Kidd of Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) cited the importance of "layers of fabric intelligence"; Geoff Barrall of BlueArc Corp. said wide-area file services (WAFS) software will be key to reducing SAN costs at remote sites; Hubert Yoshida of Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) said storage vendors must "carve big arrays into virtual private arrays" for distribution; and Mark Delsman of Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT) cited metadata -- "Secure and seamless metadata and the ability to add it in a common form is essential."

One of the panelists, John Matze of Overland Storage Inc. (Nasdaq: OVRL), however, held that 10-Gbit/s Ethernet is likely to be a key market mover, particularly as a means of linking faster disk-to-tape systems that use iSCSI. Lower pricing and new components are boosting this trend, he maintains: "Ten-gig pricing in Ethernet is dropping and if it follows what happened with Gigabit Ethernet, it will be an interesting phenomenon."

While other panelists, particularly Kidd of Brocade, disagreed with Matze on the importance of iSCSI in general, all concurred that the emphasis on hardware has changed. When moderator Fred Moore, president of Horison Information Strategies said the disk industry is one third the size it was in 2001, thanks to increased disk capacity and lower prices, and tape market growth is flat, HDS's Yoshida said, "Capacity is getting bigger, drives are denser. The value is in putting in controls, security, and intelligence. Storage vendors must do this to continue to be profitable."

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