Vendors tout protection and performance at SNW

And hope someone else can protect the economy

SNW As the storage networking suppliers gather in Dallas to show off their wares, the growing economic threat is muting the optimism about new products characteristic of SNW.

Product announcement themes are performance and data protection, apt enough for the back story, as storage suppliers will have to perform well to protect their businesses if things start heading south.

Sub-themes are server virtualisation - now so established as to be ignored at a storage supplier's peril - and energy-efficiency, but that has receded into the background a little, into the 'oh yes, and we're green too' category of attributes. It's not front and centre here in Dallas.


ATTO plays the performance card with three new interface products based on 8Gbit/s Fibre Channel (FC) and 6Gbit/s SAS. It says its Celerity quad-channel 8Gbit/s host bus adapter (HBA) offers the highest-available throughput per port at 1600MB/sec. The product uses eight PCIe 2.0 bus lanes and ncludes target and initiator drivers for integration into hosts or storage enclosures.

Secondly, and using the new version two SAS standard, ATTO's ExpressSAS 6Gbit/s SAS/SATA host adapters are the first such product in the industry. There are six models featuring initiator and target drivers and various combinations of internal and external connections.

Lastly, ATTO's FastStream SC 8500 8Gbit/s RAID storage controller is the first 8gig FC to SAS/SATA storage controller enabling a FC SAN to use SAS/SATA storage with RAID protection included.


Now that VMworld has come and gone and Hyper-V has been launched, server virtualisation has become a fact of life - nothing special any more, but something that can't be ignored. That's shown by FalconStor, whose NSS (Network Storage Server) now supports Windows Server 2008 failover clustering in both physical and Hyper-V environments. NSS is a storage area network (SAN) replication and cluster protection product with automated failover. It works with individual Hyper-V virtual machines configured as clustered servers and ensures that apps like SQL Server, SharePoint and Exchange have a consistent restart from a point just before service was interrupted.


HP is adding data encryption to its XP24000 and XP20000 drive arrays. The company says if any drives are stolen or otherwise removed the data on them will be safe. That seems a good idea, especially for the UK where HP's new subsidiary EDS has had a hard drive go missing with Ministry of Defence service personnel personal records on it, a fine example of the need for encryption. HP has also increased the capacity of its Secure Key Manager (SKM) hardware product which automates key management for encrypting LTO-4 tape drives; the new v1.1 can look after two million keys.

Encryption capabilities can be retrofitted to existing XP 24000/20000 arrays with prices starting from $23,000 - it's not cheap - and availability in December. SKM will also be available in December costing $28,500.


More protection: Nirvanix is using SNW to announce that its Cloud NAS service is now available. It offers a NAS interface - NFS, CIFS or FTP - to storage in the Nirvanix infrastructure accessed over the Internet. A Linux server mounts this infrastructure, Nirvanix' Storage Delivery Network, as a virtual drive. Conceptually it's just another drive, generally to be used for backup and archiving applications.

Nirvanix claims it's cheaper than having backup and archival storage drives in your own data centre. CloudNAS is free for companies who have a 2TB or greater contract with Nirvanix. Optional 24x7 support is offered at $200/month per server.


More performance: Mellanox announced its ConnectX EN 10GigE Mezzanine adapter for the IBM BladeCenter has achieved compliance. The company says it supports virtualization acceleration features like NetQueue and SR-IOV, and I/O consolidation Ethernet features like Data Center Ethernet (DCE) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). DCE is yet to become standardised.

Storage Bridge Bay

The SBB Working Group is one of those not-for-profit trade bodies that do a great job with standards, in this case with a standard way to fit a controller into a storage enclosure. Such standards make it cheaper to develop and install controllers; it's a little like having a standard way for a car battery to fit in an engine bay and link to the car's electronics.

More than 200,000 SBB controller slots have been shipped to date and virtually every significant storage supplier is an SBB member or committed to providing SBB-based products - Dot-Hill and Emulex are in this category - with only HP not playing a role.

The SBB specs can accommodate solid state drives (SSDs) if these are presented behind SAS or Fibre Channel (FC) interfaces. SBB members are being polled about additions they want such as 6Gbit/s SAS support or 8Gbit/s FC. SBB member Xyratex has just introduced an 8Gbit/s FC drive array.

The SBB specs don't address data protection but they do reflect performance needs. Compellent is supporting SSDs in its SAN products for faster data access and Hitachi Data System's new AMS arrays have an SAS backplane for added bandwidth compared to the replaced FC Arbitrated Loop (FCAL).


Continuing the protection theme from an email point of view, STORServer has paired up with Mimosa to offer an email archiving appliance. it has a STORServer HW/SW platform base with Mimosa's NearPoint archiving software layered on top of it. Mimosa gets a new channel partner and STORServer gives its channel another reason to knock on prospective customers' doors in the shape of the resulting appliance.

The VMware card is played too as the appliance is delivered as one or more virtual machines on a VMware ESX base. Perhaps a Hyper-V version will follow in short order.

On balance SNW announcements are more about performance than protection, about getting more bang for your buck rather than preserving bucks. More bangs are important for sure but the thought present in everybody's mind here is centred on bucks. Yes it's Storage Networking World, but the back story theme is - to paraphrase a previous presidential political helper - the economy, stupid! ®

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