SNW Recap

I returned from SNW in Phoenix last night and wanted to recap the event.  I had 10+ meetings at the show and there were multiple sessions and so am providing my perspectives on the event in general and the sessions I did attend.

Deduplication remains hot and still confuses many
I attended 5 different sessions on deduplication.  The content overlapped quite a bit and yet all but one of them was full.  The presentation in all cases focused primarily on deduplication and data protection.  I heard that there was a great panel discussion on primary storage deduplication which I unfortunately missed. Clearly, primary storage dedupe was not ignored, but it appeared that data protection remained the focus of the dedupe sessions.

Anecdotally, the most common deduplication question related to the difference between target and source deduplication.  It also appeared that deduplication adoption was limited.  When asked who was using some form of deduplication about 50% of the audience raised their hand, but when queried about system size, hands went down rapidly at around 10-15 TB.

The key takeaway is that deduplication remains a strong point of interest.  It appears that end users are still trying to understand the technology and how to implement it on a larger scale.

FCoE is still very early
I sat in on a panel discussion on FCoE with Cisco, Brocade, QLogic, NetApp and LSI/Engenio and augmented this with numerous one-on-one discussions with industry analysts.  In the panel session, the FC focused vendors (primarily Brocade) downplayed the importance of FCoE and suggested that FC would dominate for years to come.  Conversely, the IP focused vendors (Cisco and NetApp) highlighted a key win and were more focused on driving the technology into the FC realm.  Clearly, we are seeing two differing agendas at work and it will be curious to see how it plays out.  In general, the panel agreed that FCoE adoption will not become mainstream before 2011.

The other interesting takeaway is that it appeared that interoperability is still a concern.  Most vendors are on second generation technology and more testing is required.  A plugfest will be taking place at UNH in early November to verify that everything works together.  Part of the challenge is that the FCoE standard is about 90% finalized, and there is the remaining 10% that could cause issues. I wonder whether these interoperability concerns impact potential early adopters.

End user attendance was strong, vendors, not so much
There were far more end users attending the conference than I expected.  This is my fourth SNW and my experience has been that SNW tends draw more vendors than end users.  The expo hall was relatively barren from a vendor perspective and yet there were many end users.  These were real users with serious data storage needs.  It was a refreshing change from past years where vendors dominated the audience.

I am hopeful that the strong end user attendance is a reflection of an improving storage economy as suggested by Sunshine Mugrabi in this Tweet.

It was clear that vendor attendance was down.  We saw far fewer expo hall booths and sponsorship items that you might normally expect were nowhere to be seen.  For example, they did not give out bags, shirts or custom hotel keys and the gala was lower budget than in the past.  I believe that this is a reflection of the current market and vendors trying to cut marketing spend.

In summary, I was pleased with my experience at SNW.  It was a great opportunity to meet with end users, analysts and other vendors and also gain insights into technologies currently in use or under consideration.  My findings in both deduplication and FCoE were consistent with what I have seen in the market and in conversation with others.  Finally, SNW was also a fantastic opportunity to meet other twitterati including the likes of @Valb00, @RayLucchesi, @Mike_Fishman, @StorageMojo, @JohnSWebster@dvellante and @dfloyer.

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