Tuesday, August 25, 2009

IT spending 2009: A glass half . . .

August 25, 2009 -- According to recently released mid-year research from Computer Economics, 45% of IT organizations are expected to increase IT spending in 2009 vs. 2008. (<50% is typical in a recession.) And 30% are cutting IT spending. The remaining organizations expect IT spending to be about the same as last year.

Silver lining: The 45% increasing IT spending is well above the 36% in 2002 after the 2001 recession. That’s because the 2001 bust was led by the technology sector.

In terms of spending vs. budget: 49% of IT execs expect to spend less than what is allocated in their budget; 9% expect to spend more, and the remaining 42% expect to be inline with budget.

On a completely unrelated note . . .

VMworld kicks off next week at The Moscone Center in San Francisco, and there will be no signs of a slump in IT spending at this show. Although the focus is obviously on virtual servers, there will be a lot of emphasis on storage issues in the sessions, and the list of storage vendors exhibiting at the show is huge – maybe more than will be exhibiting at Storage Networking World in October.

We expect a lot of storage-related product and business announcements at VMworld, and we’ll start covering them on Monday. Check the Industry News and Analysis section on infostor.com for daily postings.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Emulex vs. QLogic: Who's on first?

August 14, 2009 – The Dell’Oro Group market research firm recently released market figures for SANs, including Fibre Channel HBAs. Both Emulex and QLogic immediately put out positive press releases, both claiming market share gains.

Emulex’s release
QLogic’s release

How can these arch rivals both have gained market share? Through the miracle of spin. It depends on how you slice and dice the numbers. For the record, here are the results direct from the Dell’Oro Group:

Share Mfg Revenue (%)
SAN HBAs - Worldwide Fibre Channel Total

2Q08 1Q09 2Q09
Emulex 37.6% 37.2% 38.2%
QLogic 53.7% 56.2% 54.2%

(The “rest” of the HBA market includes vendors such as Apple, Atto, Brocade and LSI.)

I’m betting that this one-upmanship spin will get way out of control when research firms start tracking the market for FCoE-based converged network adapters (CNAs).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Moving beyond SNW (guest blog)

August 10, 2009 – For a couple years now the industry has been debating how Storage Networking World (SNW) can regain some of its former glory and relevance. Due in part to the fact that physical trade shows have been dwindling in face of the macro economic climate and slump in IT spending, exhibitors have been questioning the ROI of shows such as SNW. And they haven’t been pleased with the quantity and quality of end-user attendees either.

For some time I’ve been advocating one change for SNW: Actively pursue involvement from the channel (e.g., distributors, VARs and integrators). The design of the show, with the combination of fairly technical sessions and vendor exhibits, is geared more to the needs of the channel than it is for end users anyway. And most storage hardware/software goes through the channel.

I recently chatted with Mike Alvarado, an independent IT consultant and a former member of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) Board of Directors. (SNIA is a co-organizer, with Computerworld, of SNW.) Mike shares my opinion that SNW should reinvent itself with a focus on the channel.

Here’s Mike’s take:

Moving Beyond SNW

Storage Networking World (SNW) developed in a time that desperately called for better vendor cooperation to reduce inhibitors to adopting network storage.

It is time to declare victory and move on to the next important task.

What is behind my conviction? First, the storage networking channel is very large and growing; it deserves its own dedicated venue.

Second, the emphasis at SNW on end users has detracted from giving solution implementers the dedicated focus and support they need to succeed. Vendors may do this for their own channel partners, but SNIA is still the only forum for cross-vendor and cross-reseller/integrator interaction, collaboration and validation.

Third, end users would be more confident in storage networking technology with even more visible cooperation and coordination between these two parties (vendors and the channel). End users may still choose to attend the successor show but the focus should always remain on the work between resellers/ integrators and their vendors.

Resellers and integrators are a vital network storage industry segment. I have seen many great conversations take place between vendors and these partners at different SNWs; those exchanges represent opportunity to drive great value for our industry. I believe if SNW focused on optimizing the interaction between vendors and resellers/integrators, it would pay large dividends. Calling the show something else or founding a new show with different sponsorship would be needed, but whatever it takes the sooner this happens the better.

Evolutionary success is based on successful adaptation to new circumstances. It is time to move forward as an industry once again.

--Mike Alvarado, IT consultant and former member of the SNIA Board of Directors.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Toigo hosts C-4 Summit

August 6, 2009 – IT veteran, consultant, columnist and author Jon Toigo, in conjunction with Toigo Partners International and the Data Management Institute, will host the C-4 Summit Cyberspace Edition tomorrow (Friday, August 7). “C-4” stands for cost containment, compliance, continuity and carbon footprint reduction.

The summit is not focused solely on storage, but a look at some of the presenters indicates that there will be some good storage content. A short list of expert presenters includes representatives from vendors such as CA, DataCore Software, Digital Reef, FalconStor Software, Panasonic, Xsigo and Xiotech.

For more information, visit the C-4 Summit site. And here’s the press release:

C-4 Summit Cyberspace Edition Launches

Online Community Established to Help Companies Develop Strategies for Business IT C-4 Issues: Cost Containment, Compliance, Continuity and Carbon Footprint Reduction

DUNEDIN, Fla., August 6, 2009 – If you are like most business IT planners today, you are probably struggling to find ways to contain costs, ensure compliance with regulatory and legal mandates, provide continuity for business critical services, and manage energy demand in your data center. Tactical measures won’t do the job, and neither will stove-piping applications and data in a single-vendor technology stack – you need a C-4 Strategy.

Help has arrived in the form of an online summit and open community called the C-4 Project. The project kicks off Friday with a C-4 Summit Cyberspace Edition at www.c4project.org.

The C-4 Summit features video interviews and presentations by 17 speakers representing both business IT vendors and consumers, who offer their views on business IT strategy going forward. The event is free of charge and serves also to kick off a C-4 Community portal where business and IT planners, vendors and integrators can come together to discuss technology, strategy and best practices going forward.

The C-4 Summit defines the components of a sustainable C-4 Strategy as
• purpose-built infrastructure and virtualization
• unified infrastructure management via Web Services, and
• intelligent information management.

Perspectives are offered by technology experts drawn from both brand name and start-up firms including CA, DataCore Software, Digital Reef, FalconStor Software, Panasonic Corporation, Xsigo Systems, and Xiotech Corporation. A case study is provided by Mike Gayle, IT Director for Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale, FL. Judi Britt, President of e-STORM, a Central Ohio IT user group, gives a report on the challenges confronting her members today.

The C-4 Project is an initiative of Toigo Partners International and the Data Management Institute. Jon Toigo keynotes the event and chairs the project. Toigo is a 25 year IT veteran, consultant, trade press columnist and author of 15 books on business and IT.

Originally scheduled as a live event to take place in Tampa Bay, FL in May, the Summit was re-cast as an online event in response to delegate concerns about travel budgets. To ensure a dialog, on-line question and answer sessions will be scheduled with speakers in September.

C-4 Summit videos will be re-broadcast by several on-line trade press publications, including Enterprise Systems (esj.com), commencing next month, and new videos will be added on an on-going basis.

Come join the C-4 Community.
About Toigo Partners International’s Data Management Institute: DMI is a membership organization to establish a professional identity for those who administer, manage and design data storage infrastructure for their organizations. It provides a location for end users to share their problems and solutions in day-to-day storage operations and compare experiences with specific storage products implemented in their shops. The institute offers a training and certification program designed to educate and empower IT workers who specialize in data management and storage administration. Toigo is also a prominent columnist for several online and print magazines covering IT, including SearchStorage.com, Enterprise Systems Journal online (esj.com), and Storage Networking World online, where his commentary on data storage technology and data protection is read by more than nearly 500,000 subscribers monthly.

Jon Toigo
Toigo Partners International

Monday, August 3, 2009

MLC for enterprise SSDs: The controller angle

August 3, 2009 -- According to conventional wisdom, enterprise-class SSDs require single-level cell (SLC) technology, as opposed to the lower-cost multi-level cell (MLC) technology – both of which fall under the NAND flash memory category. That’s because, generally speaking, SLC has performance, reliability and endurance (longevity) advantages. However, SLC media is much more expensive than MLC media. (In terms of raw media, the cost difference is about 4x.) As such, a variety of vendors are working on ways to combine the advantages of SLC with the low cost of MLC, in many cases using MLC media with advanced software and/or hardware.

In my last post (see “WhipTail: Software solves MLC SSD issues” ) I looked at WhipTail Technologies’ software-based approach to this issue. Other SSD vendors, such as STEC, are addressing the issue primarily from the controller angle (which, of course, is very much a software issue as it involves firmware and algorithms).

I recently spoke to Scott Shadley, senior product manager at STEC. He identifies the following as the key areas that will require advancements if MLC is going to succeed in enterprise-class SSDs.

--Existing ECC algorithms in SSD devices need to be improved, because ECC requirements for MLC are much more stringent than for SLC.

--Vendors need to mitigate the wear issues with MLC, because there’s about a 10x difference in the number of recycles per data sheet that SLC can withstand vs. MLC. Many SSD vendors utilize wear-leveling techniques to mitigate this problem, but “the goal is to limit, or minimize, writes in general, which wear leveling does not address,” says Shadley.

“Vendors have to come up with new ways for the controller to handle, or manipulate, incoming data so that the SSD is only writing a minimal amount of times, either by controller caching, external caching, and/or algorithms that manipulate the data to minimize the amount of data stored on the media,” he explains.

--Shadley also notes that, because MLC is slower than SLC, enterprise-class SSDs based on MLC technology will require faster processors, more flash channels, better ways of accessing the flash on those channels, and the ability to take advantage of the new NAND interfaces. “The goal is to minimize the performance and cost differences between MLC and SLC,” he says.

I expect to see some announcements in this space at next week’s Flash Memory Summit, August 11—13 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.

For more information on SSDs, see InfoStor’s SSD Topic Center.