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A new chapter in storage networking

When I think of storage networking up until this past year, it's a simple picture. You've got big boxes full of Fibre Channel drives, connected to Fibre Channel switches. Or you've got similar big boxes on the LAN. SAN or NAS, but all pretty high end, complex to use, and quite expensive. Don't do this at home, kiddies -- leave it to the big boys in the data center.

But 2004 had a different flavor. Exhibit A and B are the proliferation of SATA arrays and the arrival of working iSCSI. Those were emblematic of next-gen storage networking, where everything you know will change.

Cheap disk, cheap networks, what's next? Cheap tape? Not exactly, but disk-to-disk backup promises cheaper (and more usable) data protection. But the next wave of storage is not all about cheap, either.

Don't do this at home, kiddies -- leave it to the big boys in the data center.
Take multiple parity RAID, for example, a technology that allows RAID arrays to recover from multiple simultaneous drive failures. This year, we saw double-parity RAID -- the first enhancement of RAID's data protection capabilities in a while, and one that could also seriously change the face of storage. With multiple parity, you can easily envision broader use of cheap drives, but you can also think about the final conversion of data protection to all-disk systems down the road.

Another nascent shift is the beginning of a serious wide-area capability. WAN accelerators from Riverbed and others, asynchronous replication boxes and software -- these are only just arriving now, but ultimately could have a dramatic effect on your ability to centralize backup and disaster recovery. Add to that boxes like Kashya's heterogeneous data replication appliance, and you can see a future in which stored information moves as freely on the storage network as real-time data does on the data net now.

There were also a host of developments that hint at what the building blocks of storage networks might be in five years. IBM's SVC, HDS's TagmaStore, and a lot of ferment in the SAN/global filesystem arena are all another step toward being able to store information logically.

Yes, there was also news about big honking Fibre Channel arrays and switches. For one, they got cheaper. And they are also getting more capable. Some of those capabilities are exactly the kind that point toward an interesting future, like the virtualization capabilities built into the latest IBM and HDS arrays, and in EMC's future storage router.

There were notable omissions in the 2004 news. While there was progress on the storage management software front, it was slow, painful and not enough. Ditto for storage interoperability in general.

But on the whole, there was a lot to pique your curiosity this year, and a good deal to make one think about what next year might hold.

Editor's note: Our columns are penned by storage community leaders and do not necessarily reflect the views of This week's column is brought to you by Mark Schlack, Editorial Director of TechTarget's Storage Media group.

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