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Orlando, Observed

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Storage Networking World (SNW) -- Since the airport shuttle marooned us at the J.W. Marriott Grande Lakes Monday, we haven't seen the sky -- or a green vegetable. But if we return to headquarters tired and a bit overweight, we do so with some clearer ideas about the concerns of storage networkers.

What was top of mind at the show? Here's a sampling:

  • Coping with growth: "I have stared storage growth in the face this year, and it's a very scary thing," quipped one technical manager for a major U.S. bank as he gave a presentation this week.
  • e-Discovery: This is the new compliance. Storage managers are concerned about finding the data they need to save, making sure it's archived cost-effectively, and being able to retrieve it quickly when regulators or lawyers come calling. This agenda involves new approaches to working with in-house records experts. (See Storage Gets on Record.) It also has become a proving ground for a slew of new products for indexing, classifying, and searching stored content. (See Archiving Gets a Refresh and Content Classifiers Glom Onto Google.)
  • Email: Related to e-discovery. Email management is a chief concern of storage managers these days, who are intent on finding the best way to store it, track it, plan capacity for it, back it up, and be ready to produce it in court if need be. When you're talking 25 Gbytes of input and output messages per day, as Jim Brady, the email administrator of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center described Wednesday, the scope of the problem is clear.
  • Accounting: Fed up with a lack of adequate SRM tools, storage networkers are becoming their own beancounters these days in an effort to justify burgeoning storage costs. In one session here Thursday, Bill Eddins and Jackson Shea, two IT leads from Pacific Northwest health plan provider the Regence Group, described how they turned a Quicken package into a storage bookkeeping and reporting tool. They now plan to use it as a reference point in their search for SRM tools to flesh out their strategy. Their work was praised by the SNIA End User Council, and audience participants alluded to similar projects.
  • Virtualization: We're talking storage and servers here. The storage challenges of working with VMware surfaced continually at this week's show. How to provision storage for virtual servers and manage virtualized storage were freqent topics in forums and offline. See you at VMworld!
  • Key Management: Despite plenty of vendor security hype, attendees voiced their concern about technology progress in this area. (See Security Smorgasbord on Show and NeoScale Faces Up to 4-Gig Encryption.)

    "OK, I have got encryption, but then there's an ugly thing called key management," warned John Rotchford, managing director of analyst firm Strategic Advisory Services International (SASI) , during a presentation.

    "It's definitely a big deal," agreed an IT manager from a Midwestern manufacturing firm, who asked not to be be named. "If you don't get it right then the encryption can either hold your data hostage, or give you a false sense of security if the keys are compromised," he added.

    Vendors, apparently, should step up to the plate. "There's very good key management for a small number of keys, but to put this out for large deployment, that's an area that's lacking," said the IT manager.

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