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The Hottest Trend in Networked Storage

There's a hot new trend in networked storage, and it's not related to 16-Gbit/s Fibre Channel, 10-Gbit/s iSCSI, or InfiniBand -- not directly, anyway. Lately, disk arrays, not storage connections, have been the locus of the most interesting developments.

For months, storage managers have been regaled with an unprecedented variety of new inventions around disk arrays. These range from removeable drives that replace tape for archiving to solid state drives (SSDs) for better-performing systems from suppliers large and small. (Seagate has already started an SSD patent suit -- a sure sign of a market on the boil.)

There are odd and interesting alternative takes on traditional SAN systems: In March, startup Atrato emerged with a fresh take on enterprise arrays comprising 2.5-inch SATA laptop drives packed in a 3U box with "self maintaining" intelligence built in. Atrato claims performance in line with SSDs at a lower price.

The icing on the cake came with the unveiling of the ISE system from Xiotech at SNW last week. Hyped to the hilt, ISE quickly became the life of an otherwise very dull party in Orlando.

It's exciting to see this kind of innovation at the subsystem level -- even if a lot of it remains unproven. Instead of layering software and hardware over timeworn solutions to meet current challenges, storage managers have a glimmer of hope that something fundamentally new could be just around the corner.

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