Strategies, Players and Emerging Markets

Strategies, Players and Emerging Markets

By John Makulowich

Mention mass storage to systems integrators working with government clients and you might evoke anecdotes of the nightmares of managing massive amounts of data. Mass storage issues cover the gamut from hardware selection and configurations to software design and development - and backups in between.

And many are likely to have visions of the volcano of information that will continue to spew forth from federal agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau, NASA and the National Archives and Records Administration.

Gian Piero T. Roz, chief of the United Nations Integrated Management Information System Project, is one administrator who can appreciate the issues of mass storage, data management and a long-term maintenance strategy.

Why? His task was to automate the entire management of the worldwide organization, a project whose parallel pieces he's been managing since 1990. Completion of the totally integrated system is set for next March.

Roz describes the United Nations as a public-sector employer, a private-sector employer, a fiscal administration, a social security administration and an insurance company.

"We created a custom-developed system that contains, for example, 2,268 Sybase stored procedures (48 Mb of code) and 784 transaction screens with more than 3,800 context-sensitive help screens," he said.

"Currently, we have 1,100 active users in New York alone connected across six buildings. On average there are 270 to 330 concurrent users with 450 to 500 users logging on the system daily. The system is already operational in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Bangkok, Nairobi and Beirut," he said.

The enormity of Roz's job becomes apparent when you realize that the United Nations quite simply lacked a computerized infrastructure. For example, it used an accounting system that was 30 years old. Further, it had requirements similar to no one else, having to administer staff worldwide, deal with 250 local salary scales and transact daily expenditures in more than 110 currencies.

The major barrier, according to Roz, was the absence of a systems development culture, the lack of automation or modernization. The whole system had to be created from scratch, with the entire operation engineered.

"This is not always clearly understood. The key hurdles were a set mentality and ingrained work flow habits. We had to re-engineer the way we do business. The effort became a work culture issue, for example, upgrading the skills of users on UNIX, Sybase and EMC equipment," Roz said.

While the investment was very difficult, he said, the total cost of system development and implementation worldwide was only $63 million.

In all this, data management and backup was a key task and the decision early on was to use equipment from EMC Corp. of Hopkinton, Mass. Roz admits he chose EMC because his system was so new and growing so fast that no one knew how much to spend on data management and storage, and EMC was the most well-known system available at the time.

The Backup Market

The U.N. story is a classic example of why backup has become such a major part of mass storage management in a variety of computing environments, whether enterprise or network.

According to Strategic Research Corp. of Santa Barbara, Calif., the top revenue-producing storage management application is backup or data management, which in 1995 produced $555 million, or 80 percent of the total storage management software market of $693 million.

The firm sees the total data management market continuing to grow at 14 percent per year; it forecasts the data management market to reach $940 million by the end of 2000.

On the horizon, it views file and server mirroring products with the likelihood to displace backup as the leading product class. Overall, the company forecasts the total storage management market for distributed networks to grow to $2.6 billion by the end of 2000.

Among those seeking to exploit this market with a focus on speed is SCH Technologies of Cincinnati, Ohio, which recently announced that its REELbackup software set a new standard for enterprise-level database backup and restore. The application recorded peak sustained transfer rates of more than 733 gigabytes per hour.

Paul Wordeman, vice president of storage management, said it is one thing to store data and another to access it quickly, especially after a systems crash. He quotes approvingly Michael Peterson, president of Strategic Research Corp., who estimated that downtime resulting from a database crash can cost large corporations as much as $100,000 per hour in lost productivity. His firm's focus is the backup recovery of large storage environments.

"Every company needs an overall backup storage management strategy. It amounts to a high-performance backup, interfacing with robotic libraries, certified solutions with relational databases, implementation, 7x24 support and parallel backup and restore," Wordeman said. "The challenge is one of ever-growing storage on a variety of platforms."

He sees more and more burden placed on the shoulders of systems integrators and feels the answer is specialization. In his own case, he admits that the company's solution, while scalable to high-end equipment, was not particularly good on the low end. His company had to invest in technical resources, work with integrators and partner with other companies. That approach yielded subcontracts for backup and restore implementation.

On the Outer Edge

Among the developments in mass storage starting to gain momentum is Fibre Channel technology. Here the name of Sun Microsystems Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., looms large. The company is already one of the largest storage system vendors in the world. It recently boasted that, since 1994, it had shipped more than 2,000 terabytes (2 petabytes) of Fibre Channel-based storage systems to customers.

Sun was the first systems vendor to ship Fibre Channel RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks) subsystems three years ago when it introduced the SPARCstorage Array. (RAID technology was first introduced 10 years ago to control the cost of data protection. It did this by reducing the number of expensive disk drives needed.)

It is expected to announce a second-generation Fibre Channel product later this year. It began working with Fibre Channel standards in 1989. In 1993, Sun co-founded the Fibre Channel Systems Initiative with Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp.

Fibre Channel is an American National Standards Institute, or ANSI, communications standard, with high-speed (1 gigabit per second) data transfer interface that combines high-speed input/output and networking functionality. It operates over copper and fiber optic cabling at up to 10 kilometers and competes with the traditional SCSI (small computer system interface) interface. It is designed for bi-directional, point-to-point communications between servers, storage systems, workstations, switches and hubs.

According to Sun literature, its second-generation Fibre Channel technology will allow users to create Open Storage Networks, where storage components such as disk arrays, tape libraries, memory, cache and controllers are independent units connected by a Fibre Channel switch. The company claims the Open Storage Network model will reduce overall storage costs by enabling incremental increases in storage capacity.

Sun's high profile in Fibre Channel is part of its maneuvering for a stronger position in the storage market. On May 28 it announced plans to buy the storage business unit of Encore Computer of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for about $185 million in cash.

Another company vying for a higher profile in the Fibre Channel arena is Box Hill Systems Corp. of New York. It was started 10 years ago by a group of students taking advanced engineering degrees at Columbia University.

Its Fibre Box is a high-performance, hot-swapable, dual Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop storage system with data transfer rates up to 200 Mb per second. The company also has an X/ORaid Module, which activates X/OR RAID processors that are embedded within each Fibre Channel disk drive - eliminating the need for an external RAID controller.

The company recently announced an arrangement with Seagate Technology Inc. in Scotts Valley, Calif., to integrate their so-called XOR (exclusive or) technology in Seagate's Barracuda 9 Fibre Channel disk drives. The Fibre Box is compatible with Microsoft's Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0 as well as with Sun's Solaris 2.x.

Carol Turchin, vice president of marketing and strategic planning, sees the company's product changing the RAID paradigm.

"The Fibre Box is a high-end storage system with XOR RAID fault-tolerance. The capability of XOR RAID to perform RAID functionality directly on the Fibre Channel disk drives eliminates the need for expensive, external SCSI RAID controllers. This technology is revolutionizing the storage industry," Turchin said.

Targeted potential users for Box Hill products are Internet and intranet developers and those with heavy database applications, whether Oracle, Sybase, Informix or SQL Server. Turchin also sees a potential market in multimedia, video editing and imaging applications.

For the future, she feels that Fibre Channel technology will replace SCSI in the high-end marketplace. The increased use of graphics in mainstream applications, such as the Internet, requires more bandwidth. SCSI, with a maximum burst transfer rate of 20 Mb per second, is not equipped to handle this demand. Fibre Channel, with a 200 Mb per second throughput (using dual loops), is 10 times faster than SCSI. This, along with the added benefits of increased cable lengths (10 kilometers versus SCSI's 25 meters) and XOR RAID, make Fibre Channel an interesting solution for high-end, mission-critical applications. When all is said and done, she feels the competitive edge in the market will be lower cost and higher reliability.

Other Players, Other Markets

In the rapidly growing mass storage field, there are a multitude of other players vying for a small shift in the limelight.

MegaDrive Systems Inc. of Chatsworth, Calif., is teaming with Emulex Corp. of Costa Mesa, Calif., to offer the Emulex LightPulse Fibre Channel PCI bus adapter card for MegaDrive's next-generation Fibre Channel-based Aria storage system. Aria is designed for such applications as animation, special effects, film, post-production and broadcast.

Micro Design International of Winter Park, Fla., a 19-year storage industry member, specializes in CD-ROM and writable optical storage solutions. The company prides itself on offering what it considers the first complete solution, both hardware and software, for CD-ROM and writable optical sharing in Windows NT and NetWare environments. Its newest offerings are SCSI Express 3.5 for NetWare, the first storage solution to support a multipurpose jukebox, and SCSI Express 3.0 software for Microsoft Windows NT.

Axis Communication Inc., a network and Web appliance provider in Lund, Sweden, makes StorPoint HD, the first read/write removable storage option that users can access directly via the LAN without a file server. Basically, the product integrates Iomega Jaz drives directly into the network. Its StorPoint CD is a server that allows users to access and share disks over Ethernet and token ring networks; it also connects directly to the network without a file server.

Storage Computer Corp. of Nashua, N.H., focuses on multilevel user-configurable solutions and recently announced its RAID 7 OmniForce, the first fully user-customizable business continuance solution for open systems distributed host platforms. The company also has the 72-Series OmniRAID Servers and the 74-Series OmniRAID SuperServers/ES, which offer base configurations of 130 Gb.

Storage Dimensions of Milpitas, Calif., provider of tape backup solutions for open systems network applications, introduced its JETArray DLT7000, the industry's first DLT 7000 tape array with RAID fault-tolerance. It features up to 210 Gb of RAID 5 capacity and performance up to 54 Gb per hour. (In 1987 three Berkeley professors described five levels of architecture for RAID. Each level was characterized by different architecture features and a corresponding increase in performance or capacity.) The company also offers RAIDPro, a compact, external RAID storage system for entry-level and midrange PC servers running Windows NT and NetWare. Storage Dimensions officials feel it is the first external RAID storage solution to deliver high-end functionality that is priced competitively with internal RAID storage.

nStor Corp. of Lake Mary, Fla., formerly Connor Storage Systems, a supplier of RAID and information storage solutions, released the CR8e RAID earlier this year. This product is designed to support Ultra/Wide SCSI and new clustering architectures for medium to large PC LAN servers in the NetWare, NT, OS/2 and SCO UNIX environments. The company was acquired from Seagate Technologies last June by nStor Technologies Inc.

HDTV and Beyond

Moving beyond the demands of the present and near future and trying to accommodate emerging technology is the mission of Calimetrics Inc. of Emeryville, Calif., a start-up company with a new compact disc technology for storage and playback of multimedia content. Specifically, the company is trying to capitalize on the planned emergence of high-definition television, or HDTV, which is scheduled to debut about the same time, October 1998, as Calimetrics' first commercial product.

Tom Burke, chairman and chief executive officer, admits that the target is to bring his product to market in the fourth quarter of 1998.

"We intend to offer a feature-enhanced [digital videodisc] read-only drive, which will allow DVD to become a platform for distribution and playback for HDTV," says Burke.

He sees two potential markets: the PC and TV set-top box markets. On the PC side, Burke points to estimates that 100 million PCs will be shipped in the year 2000 and that most, that is, 50 million to 60 million, will have CD-ROM drives. The other market, for DVD players connected to TVs, already exists with $500 units now available and popular retail outlets stocking 30 to 40 different titles.

A recently published article by Calimetrics staff members Terry Wong and Mike O'Neill, explains how their product works and why demand is likely to be substantial.

The first-generation DVD systems, while designed to store a feature-length film on one side, cannot adequately handle the demands of HDTV. Those demands include a pixel resolution of 1920 x 1080 (most current computer monitors are 640 x 480 and 800 x 600), which requires more than three times the usable capacity of present DVD disks. Further, data transfer rates must increase above today's 10.8 Mbit per second. The authors point out that a proposed solution of dual-layer storage on both sides of the disk would not only increase the manufacturing costs, but also leave the transfer rates unaffected.

The Calimetrics solution? A new optical encoding technique called pit-depth modulation, which Wong and O'Neill describe as "essentially a three-dimensional approach to data-stream recording. The depth of the data pit varies, while the length is fixed." The bottom line is that an optical drive using this technique can support over two hours of high-resolution video (at least 15 Gb of data) and meet the data transfer requirements of 19.4 Mbit per second set by the Grand Alliance proposal for HDTV.

Thus, it supports HDTV with single-layer recording on just one side and transfer rates that are directly proportional to storage capacity. Most importantly to Calimetrics, the technique can readily be put into existing CD/DVD production lines.

Burke seems to feel there are few barriers to his product. He says the cost of manufacturing is very low, involving incremental electronic circuitry.

Virtual Testing Laboratory

The confusing array of products now on the shelves or soon coming to market has not been lost on A&T Systems Inc. of Silver Spring, Md. This company recently set up its Enterprise Storage Testing Laboratory to offer an independent assessment of the large number of network storage management products and systems that are now commercially available.

For Ken Reisig, vice president, the need exists to consolidate benchmarks to form a standard suite of tests that can be used to accurately assess the performance and functionality of a mass storage system.

"This need is acute across the broad market as potential customers of storage management solutions seek an independent, reliable yard stick to determine the solution most appropriate for their needs," Reisig said.

The lab, located at A&T's corporate offices, is set up to operate with hardware and software from a variety of vendors. The initial hardware includes Digital Equipment Corp.'s Alpha, Silicon Graphics Challenge and Indy, IBM RS/6000 and televaulting (remote backup) systems. RAID disk and DLT 7000 technology will be used initially for storage.

Reisig expects to add in the near future a DLT library, Ampex D-2 drive and other tape and library units.

Paul Wordeman, SCH Technologies
"It's one thing to store data and another to access it quickly, especially after a systems crash."

In addition, the company has created a "virtual laboratory" which involves the collaboration of several major manufacturers of storage management products and the "virtual" use of their labs. It will test mass storage products using test and integration labs of these vendors. This lab will produce test results and reports of the products tested and make them generally available as well as post them on its World Wide Web page.

A&T Systems plans to use the lab as the basis for an independent and practical analysis of network storage management products and systems available today. The lab also will serve as the nucleus for storage seminars, classes and for potential customers from the government and the private sector. Downtime resulting from a database crash can cost large corporations as much as $100,000 per hour in lost productivity.


A&T Systems Inc.

Axis Communications Inc.

Box Hill Systems Corp.

Calimetrics Inc.

EMC Corp.

Emulex Corp.

Fibre Channel Association

Fibre Channel FAQ

MegaDrive Systems Inc.

Micro Design International

nStor Corp.

SCH Technologies

Storage Computer Corp.

Storage Dimensions.

Strategic Research Corp.

Sun Microsystems Inc.

United Nations

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