Microsoft enters the storage market; HP's Elias quits

Times have changed: Users are raving about IBM's TSM ... A mass exodus from HP's storage group? ... McData buys Nishan on the cheap ... 10Gb products lagging ... Microsoft goes storage.

It's official: Microsoft is in the storage business. Its Windows Server 2003 (formerly SAK) network-attached storage (NAS) appliance operating system was formally launched at Storage Decisions in Chicago. OEMs including Dell, Hewlett-Packard and yes, EMC, were at the announcement. Perhaps EMC has admitted the inevitable and will start to use Microsoft's operating system instead of its own DART operating system in its Celerra NAS product.

Pretty funny hearing one well-known IT professional on stage at Storage Decisions saying: "Customer service people? I didn't think Veritas had any customer service people!" The crowd seemed to agree. Consensus was that it was particularly true for products that are newer or supplemental to the main stuff. But even with products such as NetBackup or Volume Manager, midsized users were complaining that the resolution of problems can take weeks to months.

Speaking of HP, Howard Elias has moved on, but we don't know where. Two IT people (at the same show) both said independently that they were leaving HP's storage family because of an uncertainty in the roadmap, and that high percentages of the field storage people in Chicago and Denver were just let go.

It was odd to listen to another user rave about IBM's TSM backup. How times have changed.

It looks like solid state disk pioneer, Imperial Technology, is shutting down after many years of struggle. We can't get a return phone call.

Get ready for Fremont, CA-based Panasas and Spinnaker Networks in Pittsburgh, PA, to join the NAS fray. Both next-generation players are about to launch and they both have solid scaling stories with real-world customers in tow.

Topspin, the infiniband player, was all over the place at the Oracle World conference. The company showed up in booths from Network Appliance to Sun to Intel and others. Looks like the rumors of InfiniBand's demise have been a bit overstated.

IT spending is up this quarter, finally. There was a lot of chalk talk at the Storage Decisions show, with users and vendors knee-deep into problem solving. Data migration was a hot topic in the halls.

Nishan was acquired by McData for less money than the company took in from investors. What's interesting is why, because the company was on a $20,000,000 run rate with solid customers. Perhaps it saw the writing on the wall with Cisco becoming a force?

Speaking of Cisco, Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) in Chicago has been told by upper management that Cisco is the new storage switch of choice. The company is an existing Brocade shop. Seems like Cisco's economic muscle (BCBS must be paying a lot to Cisco annually) is finally paying dividends.

Don't expect to see many 10Gb products in 2004. Mike Witkowski, Maxxan's CTO, says that while he expects 4Gb and 10Gb products to start appearing in Q2 2004, availability largely depends on how soon interoperability testing with the major OEMs can be completed. He also points out that with the recent ratification of 4Gb, QLogic, a switch and HBA provider, is accelerating 4Gb testing over 10Gb, which may further delay the general release of the 10Gb standard.

File this under: "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Xiotech launched its nifty new clustered storage array this summer, and with it, you'd think it would revamp its sales and marketing. As if. One existing Xiotech customer interested in upgrading to a 3D reports that he can't get a Xiotech sales person to call him back.


Behind the Firewall is written by a team of industry insiders who, for obvious reasons, prefer to remain anonymous. If you have tips, send them to

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