Storage conference controversies

Posted on February 01, 2001

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With a few exceptions (the Gartner Group IT conferences and Storage Networking World), storage conferences are-unfortunately-attended primarily by storage vendors and not the IT managers for whom the conferences are allegedly designed. And last month's SAN Solutions conference was no exception. There were more than 100 representatives from storage vendors but only a handful of IT managers.

The result is that you have vendors talking to vendors about the business benefits of storage area networks (SANs), for example. Believe me: The vendor community doesn't need any more education on the benefits of SANs.

The repetitive nature of the presentations begets boredom, which begets controversy to alleviate the boredom.

At last month's conference, a number of topics generated controversy-topics that may change the storage acquisition strategies at some IT shops.

For example, a number of speakers suggested that the time-honored disk-to-tape backup paradigm will give way to a disk-to-disk-to-tape model, where secondary disk is the primary backup medium and tape is relegated to a strictly archiving role. This trend is being fueled by increased IT interest in technologies such as data mirroring and replication.

While no one was predicting the demise of tape, the general consensus was that tape's role will change. One representative from IBM suggested that hard disk drives will at some point be cheaper than tape-at the media level-which would eliminate tape's traditional advantage of lower cost. And a Compaq representative said, "Backup to tape will go away in two to three years, but tape will still be used for archiving." This is the topic of InfoStor's Special Report next month, so stay tuned.

FC versus iSCSI

Although the tape vs. disk debate is interesting, the hottest topic at storage conferences these days is the Fibre Channel vs. iSCSI controversy. However, these debates aren't as lively as they once were, as practically everyone-at least publicly-expects future coexistence between the two SAN infrastructures (as well as InfiniBand).

Only a year ago, IP SAN proponents would get up in front of a crowd of storage vendors-at a Fibre Channel-specific conference, mind you-and predict the imminent death of Fibre Channel and the inevitability of "one world, one network." At the same time, Fibre Channel zealots would ridicule the idiocy of trying to run block-level SCSI traffic over performance-challenged TCP/IP networks.

That has changed: IP SAN proponents have moderated their public opinions and have, in fact, introduced products that fully embrace existing Fibre Channel SANs. And vendors such as Brocade that once might have been considered Fibre Channel bigots have stated their intention to be big players in the iSCSI market.

The sparks don't fly like they used to at these storage conferences, but there's still enough controversy to alleviate the boredom of listening to storage vendors tell storage vendors what the benefits of SANs are for the umpteenth time.

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Dave Simpson, Editor-in-Chief


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