Thoughts From SNW and NAB

There are times when I feel as if my blog should appear on some travel website, rather than a high-tech one; it’s when we are in one of the show/analyst event seasons, as about now. A bit like Anthony Bourdain (well, without the exotic locations, camera crew, books, endorsements, and smoking….but you get the point), I travel to new cities, sample the local [flash, software, SAN, cloud etc.] fare and depart reinvigorated. Hey, even the title of his show – ‘No Reservations’ – could be viewed as a storage commentary! If ever they want a replacement for Mr Bourdain, I’d love it!

Anyhow, it’s been so busy of late that I’m going to combine some brief commentary on two recent storage events, as it allows me to catch up a.little, and also to compare and contrast.


To answer your first question, yes, SNW is indeed still going. I was happy to be able to run a panel about the myth versus reality of storage hypervisors….and truly enjoyed doing so with the same gentlemen that discussed a similar topic at the last SNW (George Teixeira of DataCore, Ron Riffe of IBM, Claus Mikkelsen of HDS, and Mark Davis of VMware – although he was Virsto until its recent acquisition). We enjoyed a packed room and far more engaged questions than the first time we did the panel….because this time we’d learned the lesson from the first try – which is that the whole concept of storage hypervisors (and – naturally – this gets twisted in with and/or alternatively referred to as Software-defined Storage) remains pretty ‘Star Trek’ for most users. So, sticking with the basic concept – the heterogeneous virtualization of storage resources - was good.

I am planning an ESG Brief on the discussions and will focus on the road ahead for this technology and the optimal use-cases. Meantime, one of the simpler and yet highly impactful potential impacts of this software / app approach to storage was well summarized in Ron Riffe’s blog shortly after the event: “Commoditization of physical disk capacity YYYYiiiikkkkeeeessss!!! One of the more insightful observations offered by panel members, including VMware, was that if you follow the intent of a software-defined storage layer to its conclusion, it leads to a commoditization of physical disk capacity prices. From a client perspective, this is welcomed news, and really, it’s economically required to keep storage viable. Think about it, data is already growing at a faster pace than disk vendor ability to improve areal density (the primary driver behind reduced cost), and the rate of data growth is only increasing. Intelligence, analytics, efficiency, mobility… in a software-defined storage layer will increase in value freeing IT managers to shift, in mass, toward much lower cost storage capacity”. Yikes – and yes - indeed.

At the risk of a bad pun (regular readers of this blog will know I don’t believe in such a thing!), the limited awareness of, and relatively slow adoption of, storage hypervisors is testimony to the [understandable] conservative nature of many IT managers. Of course ‘conserve’ has another meaning and I had a fascinating meeting with an end-user – CyArk – that is involved in digital conservation of a very distinct type. I will blog separately about that in the next week or so


While I still find SNW very useful there’s no doubt that it is continuing to decline rather sadly from an end-user-attendance perspective. It would be hard to get more contrast in my ‘event life’ than to go from SNW to NAB, the latter being a show where discussions about attendance are rounded to the nearest ten thousand! The differences continue in terms of what you see and hear as well; whereas at SNW talk of a ‘shark’ is IBM users reminiscing about a device, at NAB the shark is alive and swimming in a tank; and whereas ‘magic’ at SNW is earnest discussion of the value of thin provisioning, at NAB it is illusions by live magicians…..although, to be fair, it’s also about wondering what it takes for 100,000 people to all get optimal value from such a big event.

Anyhow, I went to run another panel (I’m sure Anthony Bourdain is jealous now!) at the behest of my friends on the Active Archive Alliance. Obviously NAB focuses on media and entertainment - but in the context of tape and archiving that’s really just about big data (no capitals…I just mean huge quantities). The title of the session tells you all you need to know: “Workshop on Emerging Technologies and Best Practices to Enable Simplified, Cost Effective Storage of Mass Quantities of Long Term Retention Content”. It might not sound sexy, but boy is it important – as the customer case studies (recent leaders from NBC and the CIA were there) emphasized. They reminded us – yet again – that tape is great, extreme-volume, and inexpensive storage, but also added the still-poorly-known facts about the much improved usability, speed, file-system-ability, and even reliability of tape systems.

More broadly I had a chance to ‘wander the floor’ – it’s not just the fact that it’s a fascinating insight into many areas that I don’t usually see (broadcast equipment for instance), but what I find fascinating is that this is one of a few events that started as one thing but have grown to embrace a major storage tradeshow (VMware is another). In seeing this perhaps we are witnessing a reflection on the way IT is going – while ‘stuff’ (as represented by traditional shows like SNW) is important, the application and integration (as represented by NAB and VMware for instance) is what really matters.

The IT world is changing, as we know, and industry events, like vendors, must do so too.

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure