SNW in a nutshell?

Busy show schedule yields results

I'm not sure it's possible to summarize the Storage Networking World show in a single column and still be accurate, but I'll try.

Unless you spent all your time there golfing, you probably feel like I did at the end of the four days -- that you know a lot more about what’s happening with storage. However, if you did golf most of the time (lucky you) here’s what captured my interest this time -- my best-in-show, if you will.

With understandable pride, the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) announced urbi et orbi that vendors are catching up with its SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification).

So, does this mean that any management software can now interact with any hardware device using SMI-S? Well, we are not quite there yet, but numerous examples of multivendor interactions were on display at the show. It’s now possible to verify SMI-S interoperability thanks to a SNIA-devised CTP (Compliance Testing Program). You can check which vendors’ hardware already passed the SNIA-CTP at, and don’t forget to include the “SMI-S compliant” check mark in your evaluation criteria for new hardware and management software.

Admittedly, Brocade did not present many novelties to the public during the past year, but it is catching up now. I saw a demo of its new multiprotocol router for SANs at the show, and its flexibility is impressive.

Imagine a very adaptable switch with 16 programmable FC (Fibre Channel) ports that can seamlessly connect chosen devices residing in different SAN islands or provide a level of abstraction for your storage network such as creating a virtual-SAN configuration that spans across multiple fabrics.

In essence, you can use the new router to respond to a variety of implementation challenges, for instance creating a resilient fabric, consolidating multivendor SANs, or sharing critical devices such as tape libraries.

In addition, the router can be the FC SAN entry point for iSCSI (Internet SCSI) initiators and IP WAN links, which allows connecting remote fabrics and granting access to local iSCSI servers.

I spent some enjoyable time at the show with engineers from Hewlett-Packard, LSI Logic, and Seagate who had put together a proof-of-concept for SAS (serial attached SCSI) and SATA (serial ATA) drives sharing the same box and the same controller.

You probably wouldn’t want to buy that prototype, but it worked without a hiccup, and I felt like a proud papa admiring his newborn baby as I saw an SAS HBAs working with 2.5-inch SAS drives for the first time. Speaking of dads and babies, IBM was proud to announce at the show the 40th anniversary of the System/360, its first commercially successful mainframe and the granddaddy of all mainframes.

No tears were shed, probably because the company was quick to push forward two new babies: a mainframe model known as eServer zSeries 890 (z890 for short) and a storage array bearing the full name of TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server Model 750 (or ESS 750).

According to IBM, combining z890 and ESS 750 should give cost-conscious customers an affordable and scalable entry point to mainframe-based computing. The 4.7TB-capped ESS 750, which should begin shipping in May, can easily update to larger capacity models.

Another fabric product at the show that made my list was the Shadow 14000, an intelligent director-class switch from Sandial Systems. Why? Because with its Shadow 14000, Sandial is proposing an unprecedented ability to dynamically allocate bandwidth to selected ports. At its booth I saw a short (blame my hectic schedule) but convincing demo of how an administrator, working with the switch's HTTP-based management GUI, can assign guaranteed performance to specific ports, limit other ports to a predefined capacity, or analyze historical data for demand peaks.

Beyond the vendors and new products, I also got a lot out of the mix of training sessions, demo labs, focused discussion panels, and staged entertainment. The show definitely bears interest for people of all skills, from hands-on nerds to inquisitive CEOs and CFOs. However, you can’t go wrong keeping your eyes on my best-in-show list. Stay tuned for more to come on these subjects.