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January 5, 2011

High Hopes: Live from Storage Visions 2011

Steve Campbell

It’s January 4th and I find myself in Las Vegas at Storage Visions 2011, a small but well focused event, as a run up to CES 2011, which is perhaps the biggest technology shindig on the planet.

This is a two day event and I expect the second day will not eclipse today, (and by the way, there was a partial eclipse today—a real one) given the energy of the opening moments.

Sessions opened with panel on bridging the gap between professional and consumer content creation.  This was mainly a vendor session with seven speakers/panelists, only one of which was a non-vendor.

It would have been nice to have heard more real users, both professional and consumer, but oh well, as we all know (gasp!) the Voice of the Customer is critical.  My take is simple: the professional needs of the entertainment industry dwarfs anything consumers can even imagine.  Moviemakers, for example, have petabytes of data with real performance issues, real reliability issues and driving need to make money by controlling costs.

The analyst panel was lackluster; I would have like to hear some real controversy and debate on HDD under attack by SSD.  Basically the market is growing year over year and even though SSDs are increasing at an enormous rate the cost per gigabyte will still rule. 

There was plenty of discussion around storage and cloud computing. The most persistent question, “will Apple TV take over the world?” proved to be great fodder.  Now they do not mean Apple TV, mind you, but rather that Apple TV streams data directly to the ‘cloud’ as there is no HDD inside Apple TV. 

There is no doubt that streaming to and from storage in the cloud is happening and will grow.  Another model is Netflix, with streaming data and watching it flow in real-time – look no HDD needed. However, there is a critical piece to making this happen–access to real high speed Internet.  If you do not have a true high-speed connection you will be disappointed.  In this model real-time becomes downloading to local storage and play back; all the benefits of streaming technology are gone.  It is all about latency and bandwidth as consumers few of us have access to either.

In addition to the speaking and panel events there is a small exhibit with about three-dozen vendors pedaling their wares.  Exhibitors include household names such as Hitachi, Toshiba, Intel and Oracle together with high profile younger companies such as Nimbus Data, Distributed Data Networks, SugarSync and Virident Systems.

Despite the huge installed base of HDDs, Solid-state Storage vendors or traditional HDD vendor with SSD products are on the rise and clearly evident.  Price of SSD per gigabyte will continue to tumble, increasing the attractiveness of this technology, but it will never cheaper than magnetic media.  At least in my lifetime.   Intel, Toshiba and Virident are examples of this trending toward SSD for the consumer and in Virident’s case the high performance enterprise market space where the need for reliability and huge bandwidth and IOPS are the name of the game.

Day one is almost over, cocktails courtesy of Oracle coming up next.  Which is why I’m writing this now.

Tomorrow’s another day.