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Storage Outlook '06: Taking tiered storage to next level

In the fourth of our series of user profiles, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange plans to build out its tiered storage environment in 2006.

Craig D. Taylor, associate director for open systems with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. (CME), is another user we met at a Storage Decisions conference, this time in downtown Manhattan where he gave a presentation to fellow attendees talking about tiered storage and singing the praises of Copan Systems' virtual tape library. We caught up with him again to get his next steps for tiered storage in 2006.

Briefly tell us a little about CME.

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Craig D. Taylor: Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. is the largest futures exchange in the United States. As an international marketplace, CME brings together buyers and sellers on CME Globex electronic trading platform and on its trading floors. CME offers futures and options on futures primarily in four product areas: interest rates, stock indexes, foreign exchange and commodities. The exchange moved about $1.4 billion per day in settlement payments in the first three quarters of 2005 and managed $43.8 billion in collateral deposits on Sept. 30, 2005, including $3.8 billion in deposits for nonCME products. CME is a wholly owned subsidiary of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Holdings Inc. (NYSE, NASDAQ: CME), which is part of the Russell 1000(r) Index.

What's your most important storage project for 2006?

Taylor: Developing our midrange (Tier-2) storage platform. Our Hitachi 9960s are reaching end of life and selecting a midrange product is proving to be challenging, since we have come to appreciate enterprise reliability features that are absent from most midrange products.

What are the key storage trends in your industry?

Taylor: The buzz is all about iSCSI but I don't think "performance" storage will ever move off of Fibre Channel. (Certainly not in the near future.) In our industry, performance is measured in milliseconds and microseconds. We'll be watching the switch vendors and how the market changes over the year for the key players.

What do you think will be the biggest hurdles to implementing storage in the coming year?

Taylor: Our storage infrastructure is strong and is designed to grow. Our biggest challenge is battling the "marketing engines" that relentlessly promote new, cheaper technologies that are not ready for a critical environment like ours.

What storage technologies are you evaluating for 2006? What looks interesting to you?

Taylor: Midrange storage arrays. We'll evaluate the major vendors as well as some newer interesting solutions like 3Par [Data Inc.] or Pillar [Data Systems]. The concept of tiering performance within an array is interesting. We'll see if that idea holds up over time.

What kind of staff changes do you expect, if any, in 2006? What skills are you looking for your staff to gain?

Taylor: I don't see any changes to that this year. Continued training is critical to keeping skills current. That's the biggest challenge with staff is keeping their skills current when you consider how fast the technologies change.

How do you see your storage utilization changing for the coming year?

Taylor: Increasing . . . We are driven by transaction volume. This continues to increase as our business grows. The breakdown of the data across our tiered architecture seems to increase at the same pace as our transaction volume increases.

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