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Storage vendors strut their stuff: Who's hot, who's not

The storage show season is gearing up. With lots of interesting vendor news, legions of users attending and a juicy rumor or two, these storage soirees aren't just informative -- they're fun, too.

Interesting vendor news and throngs of users made this spring's storage shows memorable.

I like storage shows. This season has been a good one thus far. Business is booming once again, technologies are moving forward and many fledgling vendors have moved up the ranks to become legitimate contenders.

Last spring I attended Storage Decisions in Chicago, which is a show I really like. It always gets hundreds of real IT folks and has smart nonvendor speakers talking about interesting things. Categories range from tactical how-tos to more ethereal future-oriented concepts. Real users talk about real problems; semireal people discuss real solutions. Vendors like it because users mob the tradeshow floor.

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I also like Storage Networking World (SNW), albeit for different reasons. SNW is more like a storage Mardi Gras, whereas Storage Decisions is more of an executive retreat. All of my clients are at SNW, which is great for me. There are also a lot of users attending the show, although it's hard to find them because there are also zillions of vendors.

SNW has tons of content--it makes it very hard to choose what sessions to attend and which ones to skip. But I guess too much content is better than too little. At SNW, they also have vendors doing thinly veiled sales pitches and no one likes that. SNW and Storage Decisions are two very different types of shows, but they both appear to make piles of money, so who's to say which philosophy is better?

The Storage World Conference will soon close the spring season. I've only been to one of these shows, but from what I've seen, a good number of real IT folks show up. There's nothing worse than flying across the world to talk to a room full of vendors.

These shows serve a legitimate purpose, and you should go to one or more of them. Here's some of what I picked up at SNW and Storage Decisions.

Symantec/Veritas has integrated its management and created easy-to-use and deploy bundles of its storage software. It seems obvious to me, but I spoke with a few big shops who almost cried when they heard it. Even better, the firm simplified its pricing, which previously had been only slightly less confusing than cold fusion.

The file virtualization folks at NeoPath have taken an investment from Cisco. Anything that Cisco touches in our world is interesting.

I was thrilled to learn that some of the folks I've been yapping about for years are kicking it. 3Par, Compellent Technologies, EqualLogic and LeftHand Networks are smoking hot and selling tons of stuff into places you'd never think of. Perhaps there's something to this "high value, easy to use, easy to deploy, no need to manage it" kind of philosophy. Pillar Data Systems is out and about and making headway quickly.

Also, I learned about a big Network Appliance announcement that I can't tell you about. It has more to do with business than technology, but it's super smart. Hitachi Data Systems reports robust sales of its virtualization platform, the TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform, all over the globe.

I love EMC's MPFSi. It aims to let users address storage via a file system, but move data via iSCSI blocks to eliminate NFS overhead on the data transfers, which sounds way cool.

Lastly, I discovered that we should expect big shakeups at Sun Microsystems ... which shouldn't surprise anyone.

But the biggest thing I came away with from these shows is that even when you think you know it all, this business can still throw you a curveball every now and then.

This column by Mr. Duplessie first appeared in Storage magazine's July 2006 issue.

About the author:
Steve Duplessie is the founder and senior analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.

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