Hifn Inc Misses Briefing; Symantec’s SNW User Surveys Reveal Virtual Feedback; SNW Day 3 Snapshots

I apologize to those of you who expected this SNW recap last Thursday or Friday. Wednesday ending up being busier than I expected and anyone who was flying last week knows about the challenges associated with air travel due to all of the grounded American flights, spring break, and ATA going bankrupt. Though I left on Thursday flying out on Midwest Airlines, the Midwest flight before mine to Milwaukee was canceled and my flight to Kansas City was delayed an hour due to a series of nasty storms going through the Midwest.

In any case, Wednesday morning kicked off with a breakfast meeting with Lucas Mearian, the Computerworld editor responsible for editing my columns that appear on Computerworld’s website. We usually hook up at the SNW spring and fall shows to discuss what topics seem to be resonating with end users as well as to discuss where we should be taking the columns in the future.

One of the more interesting facts to come out of our conversation was the fact that Computerworld generally experiences a spike in traffic in March of every year and this year was no exception. Lucas is not exactly clear on why that is the case but suspects that March Madness may play a role in increased web traffic since users are in general spending more time online.

On my way to my next meeting with Hifn, Inc, I ran into Hifn’s PR account manager, Scott Kline, of JPR Communications. He informed me that Hifn was unable to meet with me due to some channel meetings that Hifn was in that ended up running late. Unfortunately Scott couldn’t let me disclose who Hifn was meeting with but he said to expect some major announcements from Hifn in the near future to compliment its SNW announcements that Hifn made about its software-based iSCSI bundle that turns existing storage systems into iSCSI storage appliances. 

My next meeting was with Symantec’s Director of Storage Management Product Marketing, Sean Derrington, who I finally had the opportunity to put a face with a name. I have spoken to Sean numerous times over the years while writing for Storage magazine but never had the opportunity to meet him in person.

The briefing with Symantec was definitely not a briefing in the traditional sense. The previous morning, April 8, Symantec had contracted with Applied Research to do an on-site random survey of 100 users attending Storage Networking World. The profile of these users surveyed broke down as follows:

  • 44% Storage Managers or System Administrators
  • 27% IT Managers/C-Level Executives
  • 64% from organizations with 1,000 employees
  • 19% from organizations with less than 250 employees
  • 44% work for organizations with more than 5,000 employees

The two most interesting results from this survey to me were that 100% of the respondents have deployed server virtualization and 73% of respondents are already using server virtualization in production or plans to move it into production. While the vast majority (86%) of the respondents were installing VMware software, equally interesting was the relatively large number of respondents (36%) that planned to implement Xen/Citrix. When I asked why this was the case neither Sean nor Tyler Carter, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, knew for sure since the survey only gathered high level information and not specifics. Virtual Iron was also notably absent from the list of server virtualization vendors.

The next meeting of note was with Emulex on Wednesday afternoon. They explained some of the features of their new FCoE converged network adapter (CNA) and what its benefits were. However, as I started to press for details, it became obvious that a CNA is anything but a plug-n-play proposition. CNAs require a 10 Gb/s enhanced Ethernet network, possible patches to the server operating system, an existing Fibre Channel SAN and a bridge to the FC SAN.

Emulex also distanced itself from providing any guidance on pricing. The CNA will not be GA until late Q208 and it declined to discuss pricing since prices are set by its resellers. All told, this FCoE announcement from all of the vendors left much to be desired (see my blog from last Friday) and users need to tread carefully before heading down the FCoE road so they are not sucked down into a storage networking and management vortex.

The rest of the afternoon was spent with a couple of vendors that I had not previously had the chance to meet. The first meeting was with STORServer’s VP of Product Development, Laura Buckley, and VP of Business Development, Bob Antoniazzi. STORServer sells an all-in-one backup appliance that that uses Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) as the backup software and is targeted for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

While I am no big fan of TSM, I know many SMBs will love the idea that IBM software is running underneath STORServer’s covers so I’m sure that helps STORServer’s VARs close deals in accounts into which it sells. STORServer also ships it Data Protection Appliance preconfigured with hardware and the TSM software. This avoids the laborious task of configuring and managing TSM plus it provides customers with one throat to choke should support needs arise.

My final meeting of the conference was with Ocarina Networks’ CEO Murli Thirumale and VP of Products, Carter George. Ocarina Networks has been one of the industry’s worst kept secrets of the last year but finally emerged out of its not-so-stealthy stealth mode during SNW. In a nutshell, its Optimizer product is the next generation of super file compression designed specifically for compressing video and picture files.

The best way to understand how the Optimizer works is to look at two pictures where everything is essentially the same except for some minor details. Normal compression products can do little or nothing with these files since they are already compressed and deduplication products are equally worthless since they do not handle images well. The Optimizer, however, delves inside the file and gets down to the bit and byte levels so it can detect and identify similarities and differences between pictures or, in the case of video, each frame.

The Optimizer uses an out-of-band appliance to process pictures and videos that are stored for 30 days or more though this is policy driven. Due to the huge overhead associated with processing this type of data, each Optimizer server can process at most about 1 TB per day though clustered configurations are available. Right now Ocarina Networks is primarily targeting those accounts with large image file stores such as online picture or video stores (think YouTube, Amazon S3 or Nirvanix) or companies that maintain large internal stores of imagery such as oil and gas exploration companies.

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