Spectra Logic Sees Life in Tape While Dedupe Panel Fizzles; SNW Snapshots Day 1

Day 1 of the Spring 2008 Storage Networking World is Orlando, Florida, is now in the books and with it came some interesting tidbits but nothing what I consider earthshattering – at least at this point.

First briefing of the conference was with Permabit’s CEO Tom Cook, CTO Jered Floyd and VP of Marketing, Mike Ivanov. A major concern they raised early on was how I intend to position their Enterprise Archive product in the marketplace when compared with other products that do deduplication. Frankly, I intend to position Enterprise Archive exactly as Permabit is positioning it: as an archive product.

Permabit’s Floyd provided the best rationale for positioning Enterprise Archive in this manner while presenting it as part of the deduplication panel. Floyd says, “Permabit does inline deduplication because when doing archiving in real-time, there is no window for performing deduplication later.”

However Permabit’s larger challenge is convincing users to treat archive as separate from backup. Once its Enterprise Archive product has the data, it can deduplicate it and manage it. But users have historically treated backup and archive as one and the same. While I heard one analyst and one vendor pontificate about the importance of separating the two, it’s easier said than done. While it theoretically makes sense, if users had that kind of time, they would have done that a long time ago. So Permabit’s challenge is less about proving its product works, since they can provide referenceable accounts. The challenge s about sharing the message that by archiving needed, but infrequently accessed data, users can cut down on backup windows.

My next meeting was with Spectra Logic who brought me up to speed on their latest version of firmware/software for their T-Series Tape Libraries. They are one of the few tape vendors who tell me they are seeing continuing growth in tape in all market segments though less so in the midmarket. Because of this, they are continuing to enhance their T-Series tape libraries so they manage tapes as well as disk systems manage disk.

Their rationale behind this software improvement is that tape cartridges often fail because they are not checked as frequently as disk drives. In a disk storage system at the first sign of failure of a disk drive, the storage system does everything from mark a block bad to rebuild the disk drive on a spare disk drive. Yet many tape libraries, despite their relative maturity, provide no such mechanism for managing the health of the tape cartridges they manage.

Spectra Logic’s latest firmware release provides this type of functionality to include monitoring for tape wear, number of inserts, frayed edges, etc. As it detects these types of problems, it marks the cartridge and generates an alert. This way companies can copy the data to another tape and get the bad tape out of the tape rotation. This firmware will now come standard on all new Spectra Logic T series libraries and is a free upgrade for new ones.

Next up was the much anticipated Dedupe Panel Debate that was a follow-on to last fall’s SNW dedupe panel debate where the sparks flew between SEPATON and Diligent Technologies. SEPATON and Diligent Technologies were again on stage and joined by Permabit’s Jared Floyd and Quantum‘s CTO Jeff Tofano.

Though the room was packed (I estimated 150 people in attendance), this panel failed to generate the same level of heated debate that last falls panel created. Maybe the vendors agreed to play nice or maybe they agreed to disagree, who knows. What was noteworthy that both Quantum’s Tofano and SEPATON’s CTO Miklos Sandorfi seemed to gang up on Diligent’s CTO Neville Yates arguing that post-processing dedupe is best for enterprise backup. Though their alliance makes sense from the perspective both Quantum’s and SEPATON’s products do post-processing for enterprise backup, they were more aptly able to refute Yates’ allegations that post-processing runs out of time to deduplicate than he was able to refute concerns about Diligent’s Technologies ProtecTier’s inability to scale.

Quantum‘s and SEPATON’s message seemed to resonate with the audience as well. After the panel debate was over, I observed Diligent’s Yates walking away alone while both Tofano and Sandorfi were mingling and answering questions from those attendees who stuck around.

At this point it was on to the evening’s activities. God knows I was starving since the last time I had eaten was early in the morning so thankfully Joe Austin from Ventana PR and Ed Tierney, ATTO Technology‘s Director of Marketing, had pity on me and took me to dinner. Over dinner, Ed described some of the new features and products that ATTO is announcing at the conference which are evolutionary (8 Gb/FC, SAS storage systems, etc.) not revolutionary.

The revolutionary ones are supposed to come out tomorrow. Xiotech is promising big news at 8 am ET while Cisco, Emulex, Intel and QLogic have a series of back-to-back news releases beginning at 2:30 pm ET so we’ll see what these announcements have in store for everyone. Being it is now “O” dark thirty in the morning, the only thing in store for me now is some sleep.

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