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Reporter's notebook: Chatter from SNW

Here's what we heard in the corridors at SNW this week. EMC is supposedly checking out Adaptec; NetApp and EMC are grooming new CEO's; and IBM's VTL is FalconStor.

ORLANDO, FL., -- When the sessions start to get dreary and the presenters are name dropping their company every five seconds (Cisco and Yahoo: You know what we're talking about); it's time to hit the corridors to hear what's really going on. Here's a few of the conversations we heard -- the ones we can publish at least…

EMC sniffing out Adaptec?
It's definitely a strange one, but we heard from a couple of sources that EMC is interested in buying Adaptec. Early in October, Adaptec announced plans to divest its systems business, an $80 million annual run rate unit that includes assets gained through several acquisitions including the Snap Server NAS and Eurologic block systems hardware and software assets. Could EMC be looking to buy this business to augment its NAS strategy? Maybe. Snap owns the low-end NAS space. But EMC is not a low-end player and just recently made the decision not to sell Windows-based NAS boxes directly, but to offer them through channel partners instead. On that note, EMC's main channel partner is Dell, a major Adaptec customer. Perhaps EMC is looking to solidify its partnership with Dell by buying the core Adaptec RAID business? Like we said, it's a strange one.

Related information

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NetApp, EMC prepare for changing of guard
Is NetApp president and CEO, Dan Warmenhoven grooming his replacement? We heard the rumor in Orlando, but it's probably being fueled by a recent NetApp SEC filing naming former Engenio Technologies CEO, Tom Georgens, as executive VP and general manager of NetApp's enterprise storage systems business. Sources say Georgens quit Engenio when its parent company, LSI Logic, decided to spin the subsidiary back into the fold. "It's a personal goal of Georgens to run a public company," said a source familiar with his plans.

As luck would have it (for us at least) we bumped into Dave Hitz, founder of NetApp in the expo hall at the show. [Note to Dave: Your shirts are awesome -- we can spot you a mile away.] Hitz said it was probably a little early to be grooming a new CEO, but he did add that Warmenhoven was transferring several of his direct reports to Georgens.

Similarly, there are some interesting moves happening at the top of EMC. According to recent SEC filings, President and CEO Joe Tucci, who bailed on his keynote at SNW, has taken the chairman of the board position replacing Michael Reuttgers. With three roles under his belt, Tucci is either looking to have even more power, or, he's about to drop one role, and that's more than likely the CEO spot, sources say. He's turned around the company, and the word is he's planning his exit. Who will replace him? Our money's on David Goulden, executive vice president of customer operations.

Brocade DMM vs. EMC Invista
An EMC customer looking for a data migration product brought to our attention the staggering difference in price between EMC's Invista product and Brocade's newly announced Data Migration Manager (DMM). Both products allow users to migrate data between heterogeneous storage arrays. But Invista costs $200,000 while DMM costs $85,000. We asked EMC what the difference was between the products and got this reply over e-mail:

"The Brocade Tapestry DMM and EMC Invista are distinctly different offerings. The new Brocade product is a lower-end, single-purpose utility. EMC Invista is an integrated solution that not only performs data migrations, but also volume management and local replication -- and it performs all these functions non-disruptively."

It's interesting to note that Invista runs on Brocade's intelligent switch and uses the same operating system as DMM to perform migrations. "The box is identical, just the code that does the management is different," said a spokesman for Brocade.

Big brother is watching…
Did you realize that the little barcode sticker tucked discretely into the back of your name badge at SNW has been tracking your every move? It's an RFID tag and has enabled the SNW people to monitor exactly which sessions you attended, or didn't attend, what you had for lunch, how often you used the restroom and who knows what else. Could they still be tracking you now!?

The scoop on IBM's VTL
It was no secret that IBM's open-systems VTL, which recently showed up fashionably late to the market ("IBM late to open systems VTL party", Oct. 11), was the result of an OEM deal. But IBM stayed tight-lipped about who their partner was. Our guess was FalconStor, which is also re-branded by EMC as the Clariion Disk Library -- and a little bird at SNW confirmed we were right.

"Just look at the consoles," it chirped. "You'll see they're identical. In fact, the only thing different is the splash screen."

User says EMC spreading too thin
With hardware prices falling fast and fewer ways to differentiate one box from another, it may be smart business for EMC to diversify its products. But at least one customer, once exclusively an EMC buyer, says it made him dump EMC altogether.

"Ever since they started calling themselves a software company, their hardware has been (junk)," he continued. His shop had hundreds of servers attached to several Symmetrix DMX arrays -- and if a DMX went down, "every customer on the box was down," he said. "And it would be a catastrophic failure, requiring a whole new array.

"Next time it came time to make a purchase, I said, do I really want to go through that with DMX again, or do I maybe want that other vendor's box?"

Users say they're running out of juice
An interesting new wrinkle in the seemingly never-ending story of data growth -- the power grid can't keep up with the unprecedented demand for big rumbling iron.

"One of the huge issues out there, something probably no one's really thinking about yet, but it's hitting us hard, is power," said Ken Black, global storage architect for Yahoo.

Microsoft storage architect Chris Lionetti says, "I've had empty rack spaces in my environment, not because I don't need the space or can't manage the boxes, but because I can't get enough power to support a full rack in some cases."

He said the problem wasn't being fully addressed by hardware redesigned to draw less power. "It's not about how much power a device draws as a whole," he said. "What I'm more interested in is how much power it needs per compute cycle."

A government storage smith, remaining anonymous for reasons of national security, said his department has been having such issues for years.

"We tend to be anywhere from three to five years ahead of industry," he said. "We've had to use our own homegrown methods for addressing the issue."

The source said he couldn't elaborate on that secret sauce -- it's classified.

Finally, a passing storage admin for a hospital system, said he's not quite as worried as some of his counterparts -- "We're the biggest power draw in our area anyway, what's a little more?" he laughed. But, he cautioned, users also needed to start thinking about how to back up power generators as reliably as their data.

News Writer Beth Pariseau also contributed to this report.

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