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Waves of Change

There is a wave of new technologies flooding the storage industry, from solid-state disks to storage virtualization to data de-duplication to 8-Gig Fibre Channel and 6-Gig SAS and 10-Gig Ethernet and on and on and on. Yet, storage administrators are known as being among the most conservative people in IT. Does that mean it is going to take many years before these new technologies are deployed by more than just a few early adopters?

One of the new bloggers on Byte and Switch, Frank Berry, recently wrote a blog post reporting the results of a recent survey his company -- IT Brand Pulse -- did on user perceptions on Fibre Channel over Ethernet vendors. One of his points was that while Brocade, Emulex, and NetApp scored well, they were winning the battle at least a year before an early adopter market for FCoE even exists. He wrote that things happen so slowly in the storage industry that some call it the "snorage" industry -- which is kinda funny and kinda rude and kinda true. Usually, I try to be more polite and say that storage administrators are "conservative" because what they do is so important and a mistake could cost them their jobs.

But it is true that things move slowly in storage. In fact, I sometimes have to ask what decade it is when I see people arguing over protocols and speeds and feeds and, of all things, cables. I thought most of those issues went away in the 1980s. They did, for PCs and servers and LANs and many other parts of IT.

But not in Storageland -- at least not yet. Change will come, but not quickly. The more I learn about storage the more I understand why these issues are important, why getting an extra little bit of performance out of a storage array makes a difference, why picking a protocol on which to base your storage infrastructure can lock you into a technology and a group of vendors for many years, etc.

But the times they are a changing, and the storage technologies being brought to market this year have the potential to really transform the way storage is handled in many enterprises -- if they can overcome the conservative natures of storage admins and the lack of IT dollars and the training and recruiting that might be required for handling new systems. But it is going to be a fight if you are going to try and make a case for change. And you will need some ammunition.

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