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Lessons Learned from SNW 2013

The ancient Chinese saying, or curse, "May you live in interesting times" certainly applies to data storage. Traditional storage is being rocked by trends such as the cloud, big data and BYOD that affect the information infrastructure.

The recently concluded Storage Networking World (SNW) conference in Orlando put on by Computerworld and the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) covered these as well as storage-specific topics, such as the future of solid state devices (SSDs). The need to stay abreast of what is happening now and over time is clear, as we are still in a learning curve. That said, businesses have to start making decisions today that get them started in the right direction. That was one challenge that faced the attendees.

And that challenge is a lot different than say five years ago. At that point, storage was internally focused on issues such as better management of storage area networks (SAN), deduplication and information life cycles. While traditional subjects--such as data protection--are still topical, and newer ones--such as storage hypervisors, object storage and SSDs--demand attention, the storage world now has to embrace trends that extend beyond core storage technologies.

Where SNIA Is Coming From

SNIA plays a broad role in helping the storage world cope with and live up to both storage-specific and storage-impacted trends. For those of you who might not be familiar with the group, SNIA is a not-for-profit organization that includes about 400 different companies.

SNIA is heavily weighted toward storage vendors, but others can join. That includes industry analysts. For example, even though I have not participated as much as I would like, I am a member of a few of SNIA's sub-groups, such as the SNIA Data Protection and Capacity Optimization organization.

While at SNW, I had a good discussion with Wayne M. Adams, chairman of SNIA. Now, SNIA sponsors meetings for experts. For example, it recently had a Non-Volatile Memory Summit and will have a Storage Plumbing and Data Engineering Conference (SPDEcon) in June. SNIA is also heavily involved in the development of standards and holds plugfests, which are cooperative, in-depth engineering test efforts. These include plugfests around the Storage Management Initiative Specification (SMI-S), which is a more mature specification, and Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI), which is an emerging standard. Enterprises benefit from the interoperability of products that conform with these standards.

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But SNIA is not just about storage vendors and experts. Adams pointed out the wealth of SNIA-supported educational activities for storage professionals. These include activities at SNW meetings themselves, such as Hands on Labs and Tutorials, as well as e-learning for storage certification training. Anyone can also take advantage of the free materials, such as presentations and white papers that are available at the SNIA website.

Each semi-annual SNW meeting also focuses on the business storage professional. SNW is a partnership between Computerworld and SNIA. Computerworld is actually the producer of the show and has had a long-standing working relationship with SNIA. Keynote and breakout sessions feature a balance and blend of customer case studies, which ground attendees in the real world; analysts who bring a broad view of trends and how those trends will impact individual businesses; and SNIA volunteer professionals (typically from storage vendor firms) who educate attendees about particular technologies from a vendor-neutral perspective.

Next page: Two Lessons from SNW Spring 2013

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