Tracking the buzz at SNW Fall

Amid an ocean of new products, CDP and SAS/SATA products make the highest waves

I am writing this column only hours before getting on the flight to Orlando, Fla., where Storage Networking World Fall is about to begin.

From the numerous vendor prebriefings I had over the past few weeks, I can say that this fall's SNW will be a vibrant one, with new products in just about every storage segment. That’s not surprising, given the vitality of the storage industry these days. Let me tell you about a few things worth looking for at SNW.

I'll start with Maxtor because it makes for an easy transition from last week's column, and I'll focus on SAS (serial attached SCSI). Maxtor at SNW will announce new 500GB SATA and parallel ATA (PATA) drives.

As you know, new SAS controllers from vendors such as Adaptec and LSI Logic support both SAS and SATA drives, opening up some interesting opportunities for disk vendors in the enterprise market. Maxtor, for example, already offers separate families of ATA drives specialized for enterprise, multimedia, or desktop deployment, and the new 500GB drives follow the same pattern.

For enterprise deployment, Maxtor's 500GB drive is the MaXLine Pro 500 SATA drive, offering features such as Rotational Vibration Compensation, which keeps the drive steady despite the vibrations of adjacent devices, and Accelerated Error Recovery and Extended Self Test, both of which prevent RAID controllers from wrongly declaring a drive dead.

For customers planning to use the drive mainly to store and play videos or music, Maxtor suggests the QuickView 500, another half-terabyte drive that doesn't have all the RAID-strengthening features of the MaXLine, but is optimized, according to the vendor, for deployment in consumer electronics devices such as digital video recorders.

Maxtor is also announcing the DiamondMax 11 for desktop use. A do-it-yourself kit should be available shortly, at a suggested price of $350.

Moving from disk drives to FC (Fibre Channel) fabric, Brocade keeps weaving the textile metaphor with its new Tapestry line of products and services. Tapestry includes the recently acquired WAFS (wide area file services) products and Data Migration Manager, a switch-residing application to migrate data across heterogeneous storage devices quickly.

In its recent effort to diversify its products, Brocade is building out other areas in addition to its FC fabric, which explains why I haven't mentioned the "s" word yet. Nevertheless, the SilkWorm line of switches (there goes the "s" word) is still the company's bread and butter. Brocade is announcing new features, such as mainframe support for the 48000 (its big gear) and extended interoperability of its router with McData solutions.

However important these features may be, I can't help being more intrigued by what's happening in the Tapestry line. In fact, in addition to the Data Migration Manager mentioned above, starting early next year Brocade will ship Applications Resource Manager (ARM), an application that should allow seamless booting from the SAN and smooth switching of a server from one application environment to another, whether or not they're running the same OS.

Advantages of ARM include the fact that it allows for quickly replacing a broken machine with another in standby or creating a more efficient, SAN-based boot environment for clusters of blade servers.

Brocade's ARM is certainly interesting, but I'd also like to draw attention to Availl's Backup 3.0 application, announced just before SNW. Backup 3.0 is a continuous data protection app that relies on agents to intercept and store -- both locally and across the WAN -- any change made to files and databases. Add to that compression, encryption, and data transfers managed using only the ubiquitous HTTP protocol, and you've got a nice little backup suite.

When a restore is needed, Backup 3.0 can create point-in-time copies with any level of granularity, revive deleted files, and offer recovery from several generations of the same file; you can also set automatic fail-over. The application sells for less than $1,000 for servers, according to Availl.

I'll have more on SNW Fall in next week's column, but before I close, here are the two areas that get the most ink and the most news coverage at SNW: SAS/SATA and CDP (continuous data protection).

New SAS and SATA products make everybody's head turn, and with good reason: They give customers the flexibility to optimize the same storage enclosure for capacity or for performance without having to hire an army of vendors' engineers.

CDP is the other area where I see many waves on the horizon. You can blame it on Microsoft DPM (Data Protection Manager), an application that has many friends adopting it (more on this to come) and many foes swearing they can do better. But wherever you stand, you'll find plenty of occasions to discuss these two topics at SNW.

Join me on The Storage Network blog to discuss this and other topics.

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