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SNW '04: Reporter's notebook

EMC and the Red Sox; ILM ramblings; robust Dell servers; and a little pat on the back to Storage magazine.

The Red Sox had a strange presence at SNW this year, which increased each day as they got closer to their World...

Series sweep. Baseball seemed to be what everyone was talking about (when they weren't talking about storage, of course). Every time the Sox were mentioned at a session, people clapped. Could be that EMC has brainwashed its customers and rivals into becoming Red Sox fans -- but whatever the reason, the Red Sox nation is alive and well in the storage world. So let's put Babe Ruth on tape and drive him to a remote site in the middle of nowhere. The curse has been reversed!

Another World Series tie-in. At an EMC-sponsored dinner for press and analysts on Tuesday night, a TV was conspicuously absent from the restaurant. Game three was in progress and naturally, everyone was curious about the score. Don Swatik, EMC's executive vice president of global solutions, took matters into his own hands and had his wife call his cell phone with updates. He would then bark out the score to the room. We never thought we'd hear a storage executive say "Sox are up one nothing. Manny hit a homer!"

The "talk a lot and say nothing" award goes to -- anyone at the show who tried to explain what ILM means.

Here's to knowing when you've talked a lot and said nothing. When asking a user at the expo if he's implemented iSCSI products or plans to, he talked for 30 seconds without answering the question (a career in politics?), but then stopped himself and said, "You know what, I have no plans to use iSCSI and nothing interesting to say about it." Ahh, sweet honesty.

Pardon us for being a little self-serving, but a storage administrator from an industrial lighting company in Atlanta told us at the show that he used Storage magazine's May 2004 cover story "Who owns storage?" to land his job. He gave it to management and said "Read this to see what storage groups should be doing and how they should be doing it." Nice!

Feeling insecure?

During Steve Duplessie's usual stream of consciousness, bird's eye view of the storage industry at SNW, he cited an ESG survey that found that two-thirds of storage pros believe that security is an "extremely important" consideration when buying storage, but only one-third has done a security audit of their storage assets. And 46% said their storage vendor's commitment to security is "weak." Seems like security in storage is still like the Wild Wild West. And you know how things usually ended in the Wild Wild West? That's right, badly. Just rent "The Wild Bunch" as a reminder.

Speaking of feeling insecure, when Duplessie discussed storage systems, he had one word to describe Hewlett-Packard -- "yikes." If you're a major technology vendor and you've been reduced to "yikes," it may be time for some soul-searching. And who knows, they may find the true meaning of ILM along the way.

Dell servers slide off truck, still work!

Propping up its partner, Dell Inc. -- literally -- EMC told that it dropped 11 rack-mounted Dell servers off its truck while unloading the gear at SNW this week. The rack was being forklifted off the truck and slid off, crashing to the floor. Apart from the door falling off, one pinched cable and a PCI card that had to be reinserted, the bashed-up box still worked just fine according to EMC solutions engineer Brian Hassan. He added, "I'm not going to touch it now that it's running."

One of the demonstrations the partners were able to show was data failover and recovery from a site in Limerick, Ireland, to a site near Austin, Texas. Using a Microsoft Exchange 2003 messaging application, they showed data being replicated between two Dell/EMC midrange storage systems separated by the Atlantic ocean. Within minutes of an application failure in Limerick, asynchronous mirroring enabled the recovery location in Central Texas to be running and fully processing transactions. Asynchronous data replication allows users to mirror their data from site-to-site using IP instead of costly Fibre Channel networks. Pretty cool, right?

The demonstration used four Dell PowerEdge 2850 servers -- which are pretty robust it would seem -- two Dell/EMC CX500 storage arrays, EMC Mirrorview/A, asynchronous replication software, two McData Eclipse 1620 SAN routers to extend the Fibre Channel fabric over a wide area IP network and four QLogic 2340 HBAs to connect the servers to the SAN. This package costs approximately $300,000.

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