Storage? Boring? Not anymore

At Storage Network World, the staid world of storage was all shook up by next-gen FCoE, SSDs, deduplication, and more

I spent most of this week at Storage Network World in Orlando, Fla., and I came away with the overwhelming impression that storage is moving at a frantic pace in half a dozen different directions. There was some real excitement, even adjusting for the usual shrill marketing messages.

If pressed to identify one theme at Storage Network World, I would have to pick convergence -- not just as it applies to storage, but to the entire data center. Silos are out! Convergence is in! If you ask the vendors, that is.

[ Also on InfoWorld.com: Learn how data deduplication can slow the explosive growth of data with Keith Schultz's Deep Dive Report. | Looking to revise your storage strategy? See InfoWorld's iGuide on the Enterprise Data Explosion. ]

In reality, convergence is still a tough sell in many large organizations. The network team doesn't want the server gang to touch any of the network gear, and the storage group don't want to let the server gang near their metal, either, no matter how much HP says we should all get along.

Meanwhile, admins in midsize companies are wondering what the fuss is all about. Most of them do everything anyway because there's no alternative.

But convergence wasn't the only buzz. Throughout the sessions, panels, and presentations, storage professionals kept touching on common technologies and trends -- led by SSDs (solid-state drives), data deduplication, and FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet).

Is Fibre Channel spinning down?

I sat in on several talks discussing the realities of FCoE adoption and integration over the next few years, and it seems clear that traditional Fibre Channel has a long row to hoe if it's going to survive the lower cost and higher performance of FCoE.

Granted, there are generally higher latencies with FCoE, but the benefits of lower cost and less complexity can push those concerns aside for many infrastructures. For the moment, Fibre Channel has an 8Gbps limit, whereas FCoE can run up to 10Gbps. There is a 16Gbps Fibre Channel standard in the works (and planning for 32Gbps down the road), but 40Gbps and 100Gbps Ethernet standards have already been approved -- there is actually 100Gbps gear out in the wild now. It's going to be hard for Fibre Channel purveyors to match those numbers in the coming years, and nearly all disk vendors are shelving Fibre Channel for disk access in favor of SAS.

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