Storage Channel Pipeline

August 23, 2010  10:52 AM

SSD arrays skip the disk form-factor package

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

The term “SSD” has usually been a mnemonic for “solid-state disk” drives, as in flash memory modules that are put into traditional disk drive form-factor packages. This format is perhaps the easiest to integrate into an existing storage environment, either as replacement server-based disk drive(s) or for use in an external disk array. But this packaging includes a SAS or SATA interface for each SSD itself and for legacy external arrays and involves running solid-state storage devices through a controller designed to support spinning disk. New, dedicated SSD arrays are available that integrate the flash memory modules directly onto cards inside the array and skip the disk form-factor package altogether. Storage Switzerland was briefed by two of these companies at the recent Flash Memory Summit. Continued »

August 16, 2010  11:25 AM

Metadata management: A free NAS performance upgrade

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

In the ongoing effort to improve application performance, tiered storage — especially using SSDs — is a tool vendors often use. The concept is simple: Move the files supporting these applications to faster storage, where they can enjoy lower latency and thereby increase IOPS. But this requires either enough storage space on the faster (more expensive) tier to hold the entire data set, or a way to determine which files are used the most and just moving those to the upper tier. Now there’s another way: tiering file metadata via metadata management. This can deliver a nice NAS performance improvement. Continued »

August 9, 2010  9:17 AM

How VARs can beat the “me too” problem

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

How many times have you as a VAR gone into an account and uncovered a real need, one that you had an excellent solution for, only to find out the customer had already made up their mind (somewhat) on what the solution should look like? And, it probably wasn’t the right solution – and not just because it wasn’t yours. To have a shot at this deal, you had to “unsell” the customer on what they thought they needed and then start to build a case for your solution. And often, you had to beat back the other VARs that were in the deal with “me too” products.


It would have been much easier if the customer had just focused on what they needed fixed, rather than what that fix would look like. After all, that’s your job. But problem-solving people, like IT professionals, start thinking about solutions almost as soon as they’ve identified the problem. As much as we’d like them to act like patients in the doctor’s office (“tell me where it hurts”), they usually come in telling us what (they think) they need. Customers jumping to a solution can take all the fun out of the deal and often the GP as well.


This can be one of the benefits of selling new technologies. Customers haven’t heard as much about them so they don’t come to mind when a problem crops up. As an example, although file virtualization isn’t a new technology per se, it’s a category that’s certainly not overpopulated with vendors and can help VARs get into successful projects. Trace3 is an integrator I interviewed recently that’s been very successful with this approach.


ATA over Ethernet (AoE) and log management, which we’ve written about in recent posts, are two technology categories that also fit this description. AoE is an economical networking technology that represents a unique alternative to traditional storage network solutions for a portion of SAN use cases. Log recording isn’t a new idea but log management is a new way to solve a compliance problem with a solution that can set you apart from the competition.

August 2, 2010  10:16 AM

Hybrid cloud storage: An answer to customers’ cloud storage questions

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

IT professionals love new stuff and are often quick to agree to a meeting when you call to talk about new products. But there’s a gap between discussions and projects. It’s part of the “funnel” in most sales processes: There are always more (sometimes many more) meetings and proposals than actual projects. Getting from a good idea or technology to a workable solution that can start to pay itself back requires answering enough of the questions prospective users have. Cloud storage can be an example of this, especially when it’s moved out of consumer applications and presented to businesses as an enterprise solution. In terms of why users haven’t embraced the cloud with the enthusiasm many predicted, it’s probably a case of unanswered questions. Hybrid cloud storage can answer a number of these questions. Continued »

July 27, 2010  3:43 PM

Log management as storage VAR opportunity

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

For many storage VARs, e-discovery was one of those promising technologies that generated a lot of interest, drove quite a few appointments but didn’t result in many new customers. A lot of products in the compliance arena seem to be like this, but log management may be different.


Historically, log monitoring has been a security effort, part of the intrusion detection process. Events from firewalls, for example, generate information about who’s accessing the system, which is captured in logs and compared with policies to determine if a threat condition exists. Security information and event management (SIEM) technology was developed to improve security effectiveness and meet some regulations around this external threat detection and alerting.


Regulations like HIPAA, Sarbanes Oxley and PCI, for example, involve the data captured in these logs as well. But, they’re also interested in data from the myriad other logs that are generated in the environment, from elements like switches, routers, applications, databases, operating systems, Web proxies, etc. These data contain information with a potential compliance impact and organizations are mandated to collect, analyze, report on and archive all log monitoring activities across their infrastructures. Similar to files that contain personal information, logs represent another type of sensitive data that organizations must manage.


Log management as a technology category in IT has grown out of the need to control this new group of sensitive information. For example, transactions involving credit cards generate a log that contains personal data that must be stored securely and reported on. Similar to the case of e-discovery, these data must be kept for years and made available for searching and retrieval, etc. Log management solutions provide the system to collect, store, maintain and report on information that’s collected in all these different logs.


Unlike e-discovery, log data isn’t just a concern if legal action arises, it’s a day-to-day requirement. Also, since logs are transactional, log data can consume significant amounts of storage. Even a small organization can generate tens of gigabytes per day, or terabytes per month. Some companies write their own solutions to store logs, others use multiple, point solutions, but all companies have to deal with log data. Compared with other compliance-related products, the need for comprehensive log management represents a potentially better opportunity for storage VARs.


Follow me on Twitter: EricSSwiss.

July 18, 2010  11:15 AM

SSD in existing arrays: Managing customer expectations

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

This blog is part of a series of posts around the use of solid-state storage and how this category of products is a natural fit for storage VARS. For more information on solid-state storage, please see Storage Switzerland’s SSD Resources page. 


Disk arrays have always used solid-state storage, called cache, to speed up overall system performance. Typically, caches are built into HDDs as well as the array controller itself, but for the sake of this discussion, we’ll assume that they are all one cache. Continued »

July 12, 2010  3:10 PM

Low-cost networked storage option: ATA over Ethernet (AoE)

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

Networked storage started (generally, at least in the open systems world) with Fibre Channel SANs and Ethernet NAS, and it was good. Like Coke and Pepsi we had a couple of easily recognizable alternatives for the common requirement of consolidating storage on a network. The marketing of these networked storage technologies kind of devolved into a “tastes great; less filling” argument, but that’s to be expected. Then iSCSI came out, promising to provide block storage without the complexity (or cost) of Fibre Channel. As Ethernet performance improved, the Fibre Channel folks figured, if you can’t beat them, join them, and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) came out as ways to extend Fibre Channel over Ethernet, using the IP protocol. Now there’s another option, one that’s going in the other direction, providing simple storage networking using Ethernet cabling but not the IP protocol. It’s called ATA over Ethernet (AoE), and it’s worth a look. Continued »

July 6, 2010  11:30 AM

Tech Refresh: Solid-state storage

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

There’s certainly a lot written about solid-state storage, and more to come as this technology matures. In this blog post and subsequent pieces, I’ll outline the technology for background info, and I’ll focus on where SSDs are being used and why. I’ll also examine some of the differences between the implementation approaches taken by traditional storage array manufacturers, which are putting SSDs into their existing products, and newer companies, which often have a different angle.


As advocated by that slogan one of the presidential candidates used a while back — “It’s the economy, stupid”– focus is critical. Continued »

June 28, 2010  10:27 AM

RDX drives a portable data transfer solution

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

Someone once said, “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes.” Raise your hand if you’ve ever ridden in a station wagon. I don’t think the reference to a vehicle that’s not been manufactured for a generation means this quote is really that old, and “a minivan full of tapes” does bring up the peculiar image of a soccer mom driving for Iron Mountain. Back to the point: Data is growing, and infrastructure is evolving, too. But the problem of getting enough data off-site, or back on-site fast enough, still remains, especially for IT organizations that don’t have multiple data centers connected by big pipes. One possible data transfer solution: RDX drives. Continued »

June 21, 2010  8:14 AM

RDX drives a good option for SMB data archiving

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

In a recent special report on archive appliances, Carol Sliwa makes the point that dedicated archive appliances are a specialized, niche product with a somewhat limited appeal to the mainstream IT market, which instead prefers archive software that can use storage of the user’s choice. She also reports that in smaller companies, the archive appliance has more basic appeal, as  an easy-to-use storage device that can provide the regulatory compliance that many organizations need. I would largely agree that archiving, like other storage activities, is best done in software for larger organizations so they can consolidate the physical data storage aspect of the operation, a point made in the Storage Switzerland article “Archiving Basics.”  And, I’d certainly agree that the appliance format is appealing to smaller organizations, since it goes in easily and, in the case of archiving, includes required compliance features. There’s another technology, RDX drives, that fits well with the use case described. Continued »

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