It was a great experience to attend Storage Networking World in San Diego. Thank you, Bill Wrinn and ComputerWorld for allowing me to attend the conference with media credentials. Hopefully, blogger experiment was as interesting to organizers as to me.
Overall, I felt there were three main themes to the show:
Global data reduction: It was apparent at SNW that users are starting to look at products that can reduce the data footprint on all type of storage across enterprise. There is strong interest in de-duplication, compression or any other single instancing method. End-user Town Hall meeting is an exclusive affair. Data reduction may have been one of the topics brought up in the meeting!
On the topic of End-user Town Hall meeting, are you guys really think that taking your grievances from such closed meetings to vendors through SNIA helps? Security weaknesses in products didn't get addressed by vendors until they were made public.
Special-purpose appliances: End-users seem to be more interested in products that can do one thing very well than try to solve all their problems half-ass. Whether they are unification, performance, security or vertical-specific solutions, end-users didn't seem too concerned about having special-purpose appliances in their data center. Introducing delays in data path is still a concern but it is no longer a hurdle as long as a major pain point is resolved for the customer.
Another related mindset change was end-users willingness to buy from startups. In my discussions with end-users except for few very conservative shops, it wasn't uncommon for their data centers to already have or under evaluation products from startups. This is a welcoming change from couple of years ago when end-users were only willing to buy from large established vendors. Such conservative attitudes do nothing more than slowing innovation and creating barriers for real solutions to alleviate the pain points.
Clustered and grid storage: This is a shift from earlier trend of scale-up. No longer end-users are demanding a larger capacity and higher performing version of a product. Instead they are looking for product that can scale out as their requirements change without a need for replacing existing solution. Performance scalability through clustered storage is no longer confined to high performance computing (HPC) market. It started making significant inroads with vertical-specific applications and now moving in to main stream for resource intensive applications like data mining.
The success of Google with scale-out architecture using commodity hardware is also making end-users wonder why can't they leverage the same in their environment leading to increased interest in grid storage that can adapt to changing workloads, dynamic environment and provide single view of storage.
There could be another theme with data classification at SNW. But I didn't see anything that stood out, same old policy-driven stuff, nothing intelligent, with limited end-user interest.
Of course, you may disagree with the above themes so let's hear your thoughts. An IBM person with whom I shared cab to the airport thought the main theme was Storage Virtualization.