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The times, they are a-changin'

By Alan Earls

If you had asked Boston-based Yankee Group analyst William Hurley about his opinions on the storage industry upon leaving the recent Storage Networking World event on Nov. 1, he would have said that the storage industry seemed to have fallen into a bit of a rut lately. "People were still griping about the same, old interoperability issues," he said.

What a difference a few weeks makes in storage. Now, says Hurley, times have changed and an entirely new focus has emerged: Software.

For starters, there were IBM's revelations about Storage Tank - Big Blue's code name for storage software intended to support data sharing amongst a wide range of network devices from different vendors.

Then, on December 4, 2000, Palo Alto-based Sun Microsystems, Inc. announced that it would acquire HighGround Systems (based in Marlborough, Mass.), a leader in storage resource management solutions for distributed open systems environments.

The next day, Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corporation introduced HighRoad which combines industry-standard file sharing of network attached storage (NAS) with the high performance of a storage area network (SAN) -- for the first time creating one unified storage network.

Hurley said these announcements boil down to a new focus on software within the industry as a means to address a wide range of major functional issues, including capacity management and more robust interoperability. "For example, Storage Tank portends working with Compaq, IBM and others in a heterogeneous environment, as well as fabric elements like Fibre Channel and all the spindle-based hardware vendors," said Hurley.

According to Hurley, that breadth of vision amounts to a sea of change ahead for storage -- in terms of how the industry thinks about both interoperability and integration.

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About the author: Alan Earls is a freelance writer in Franklin, Mass.

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