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Executive vision: Storage Research Corp. president taps emerging markets

In this continuing series of interviews with the CEOs and top executives of major storage companies attending the Merrill Lynch Storage Technology Conference in Santa Barbara last week, searchStorage talks to Michael Peterson, President of the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Strategic Research Corp., a market research firm specializing in storage. Peterson is also a partner in IN_fusion, a business development firm and former president of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).

Peterson, who played an integral part in making the SNIA a reality as its founder and first president, discusses a number of upcoming developments such as application-intelligent networks (AINs) and forensic data trails and shares his predictions for segment sleepers that are bound to become the hot markets of tomorrow.

You seem to be dividing your time lately between Strategic Research Corporation and IN_fusion. What have you been doing these days?
Most of my time now is spent creating things for the industry, creating events, doing business development, building relationships, things along that line. There are two main things going on. Strategic Research Corp. (SRC) is still underway. We're still publishing. We're still doing conferences. As a matter of fact, we have a conference being held this week in Monterey, Calif., the e-Commerce Infrastructure Technology Conference & Tradeshow.

With SRC, I have my own conference track separate from the SNIA/Computerworld shows. We've added and discontinued a few conferences over time but are now formulating two other conferences we'll [SRC] be doing. One of the previous conferences we created at SRC was called MarketFusion. We changed the conference format so it was comprised of just private, prearranged meetings, and created a spectacular event. It really went nicely, but it turned out to be just too much work when I wanted to do some other things.

Here's where IN_fusioncomes in. We created IN_fusion out of MarketFusion, because we have so much business development work coming. IN_fusion is a business development/accelerator firm with 13 partners who are all senior executives out of the industry. I'm out canvassing and pulling the best CEOs I can find. Is IN_fusion like a think tank or a storage-based venture capitalist firm, then?
It's all of the above. We have probably the best IP of any firm in the industry. I've got some of the very best technologists in the industry on my team. We do everything from creating new companies to taking existing companies and putting them on a very high valuation path. We know where the gaps are. We know what everybody's doing. We know what products need to be in those gaps, and we're just articulating into those holes with the right products at the right time. It's kind of like a VC stream. So, we have phenomenal relationships in the investment community. We're growing that and are out searching through all the field of emerging companies, picking out the jewels, and helping them to do better. What types of jewels have you come across lately?
There are some phenomenal jewels coming down the pike. What's going to change the industry is a good topic. It's not about, 'Gee, this is a nice, cute little technology.' It's all about disruptive technologies matching the dynamic of change within the industry. Let me explain what I mean.

In 1997, we externalized storage. From 1999 to 2000, we externalized the servers (or, disaggregated the servers would be the most correct term). The term 'disaggregate' means to take it apart into its component pieces. So, the server's now disaggregated, especially with Infiniband coming on. The storage is out of it. The bus is being externalized with Infiniband. And, all that the server becomes is a compute center. It's going to change the whole dynamic of how we think about servers, application servers and application loading. It opens up a whole new industry.

A good example is in the telco space. Here, we have an application-intelligent network (AIN) environment where we can profile the communications packets and we can do load-balancing based on intelligence. Well, with this disaggregation process that's in place -- and with storage moving to IP -- we can now do packet-profiling in IP. We can't do that in SCSI. We can now take this type of thinking of the AIN and apply it to the server/storage network. Do you subscribe to the recurring theme in the Merrill Lynch storage conference that the future of storage is in the intelligent software -- where it resides, such as in the switch, etc.?
Yes. How about that? And, guess what type of switch that is? It's going to be an Ethernet switch. It's going to be an Infiniband switch. These are both true. But it's really going to be a Layer 7 switch. There are four Layer 7 switch start-ups going on and these guys are where we can put the intelligence. So we have some switch companies we're working with doing this. There's a specific software company over here where we're developing the management software to do AIN that's going to map together. So, there's that revolution beginning to line up. We're going to change the notion of profiling and the notion of application tuning. So, that will be a revolutionary shift and a great value. Can you give us more details about when we could expect to see these types of products come to market?
Forensic products will be on the market by the end of Q1. The company pioneering that is Delta-Tek Research. On the software side of AIN development, PRISA Networks is the leader. On the hardware side [of AIN], it's really up for grabs still. Yes, the Brocades of the world will want to shift in this direction because they'll have the resources, etc. But, there are some really interesting new start-ups that are coming into that corner. There's a spinoff out of 3Com. There are some other people coming up. It will be real interesting to see where that goes. You've also mentioned the emerging area of forensic data. Could you explain what that is and what it could mean for the future of storage?
Sure, this is another field that I think is real interesting. We call it the forensic data security field. The notion of forensics is that you have a legal audit trail of all changes, and at the same time you have a high-availability way to move to any point in time. Thus, you have a secure environment. Because security's broken -- as it's defined today by the network world -- it's only access and intruder and they both fail. Damage occurs. Corruption happens. All these other things happen. So, you need this ability to go to a known good point in time and roll forward to change. You need the ability to trap all changes so you can actually do an audit trail and know what happened and who did it. That product is coming into the marketplace with another company we're working with and have been working with for a while. Let's just put it this way. EMC loves it. They are all over it. Lots will be happening in the first quarter. Are they pushing to get these products out, or are they right on schedule?
Let's just say that you're going to see EMC's initial launch in that timeframe. EMC is a market-maker. When EMC declares a new methodology, the world follows.

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