Staying the course at SNW

Disk encryption, SAS, and iSCSI continue their quiet revolution

Storage Networking World Fall in Orlando is one of the never-ending storage carnival's most popular merry-go-rounds, but his time I had to pass on attending: too many things to do in my lab.

Nevertheless, I've had so many vendors briefing me over the last few weeks that I didn't miss much of the news announced at the show. That's good, because this iteration of SNW will be remembered for important strides in technologies such as disk drive encryption, SAS, and iSCSI.

Disk drive encryption seems to be, at least for now, the undisputed realm of Seagate. In fact, Seagate introduced encryption for its laptop drive last year, and is now doubling that effort (unchallenged so far) with the second-generation Momentus 5400 FDE.2 (Full Disk Encryption), which should become available in 2007.

According to Seagate, the Momentus FDE.2 implements AES 128 encryption and will have features to improve security and simplify management. These features include limited access before authentication, protected passwords, the ability to quickly erase the content, and the ability to unlock the drive from an emergency recovery file.

Seagate calls the technology developed to secure its disk drives "DriveTrust" (not much of a stretch there), and I hope that those enhancements will persuade laptop manufacturers to trust the drive and start offering FDE as a standard option on their systems.

It's undeniable that there is a need to better secure laptop data, but it is not limited to government agents and bank managers who take their work home. FDE fills the bill here, too: For an additional fee (one that Seagate estimates should be less than most encryption software), having a laptop equipped with FDE would be an effective and affordable theft deterrent.

Disk encryption has the potential to become a disruptive technology, but let's not discount that possibility for SAS (serial attached SCSI), too. At least two vendors, LSI Logic and Xyratex, are announcing new SAS products at SNW.

Xyratex's claim to fame is putting the first SAS enclosure on the market, so I am not surprised that they cloned a successful FC RAID enclosure to create a 12-drive SAS-SATA version, the E5402E. With expansion units, you can pile up a max of 60 drives, which should provide plenty of tiered storage to a midsize datacenter.

LSI Logic is bringing to market a 12-drive SAS/SATA enclosure, the MegaRAID SAS 1300 JBOD, that offers no onboard RAID. However, LSI also is announcing two PCI Express SAS controllers, the 8708ELP and 8888ELP, both offering RAID 6 to protect from double disk failures.

What's the significance between these announcements? Tier One vendors get more SAS products from which to choose, and it marks yet another step toward replacing old parallel SCSI (and perhaps also a significant share of FC drives) in your datacenter.

My last pick from SNW Fall is OnTarget 3.0, an iSCSI target application from Adaptec that promises to make IP storage networks easily available to SMB customers. However, an end-user will probably never hear about OnTarget, because Adaptec is counting on VARs and systems integrators to install the solution on plain vanilla servers according to customers' specifications.

Sounds like something we've heard before from other vendors, but Adaptec has armed OnTarget with some interesting features, including a management application that consolidates storage provisioning from internal drives and the network under a single GUI.

Moreover, OnTarget can schedule up to 256 snapshots and build a twin system with automated data mirroring and failover. The actual price of those systems will be set by the VAR, but Adaptec estimates that the OnTarget onus will be moderate, as little as $1,500 for an entry-level configuration.

Could OnTarget persuade the reluctant DAS (direct attached storage) crowd to opt for the convenience of a storage network? I hope so. Perhaps this will be the next quiet revolution coming from SNW Fall 2006.

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