Storage highlights from around the Web

Teeter tottering over DVD formats

The race over the next wave of optical disc technology is wavering like a seesaw. One week Blu-ray is at the top while HD-DVD wanes, and the next week HD-DVD springs up while Blu-Ray drops to the ground.

This past week was a draw as the head of Toshiba Corp., which supports the HD-DVD standard, predicted there would probably be products for both formats for a limited time until the industry settles on a standard. Talks between Toshiba and Sony Corp., a key supporter of the Blu-ray camp, haven't made progress, and time is running out. Both companies are readying products for release using their own format: Toshiba plans to release HD DVD-based players by the end of the year, and Sony has scheduled a Blu-ray disc drive in its new PlayStation game console for next year.

So how will we users be watching our high definition movies in the next year? Any bettors out there?

Thinking globally

Leslie Wood raises compelling issues on the prospects for global storage networking in this article for the Enterprise Storage Forum. Can global data management be achieved without a new infrastructure? That could be very expensive. Can it be done by enhancing what a company has? Only perhaps by "enlightened" businesses, says one expert. But with the huge need for storage and the demand for greater access, it's clear storage is moving, as this analyst put it, "from being a back office requirement to an integral part of the day-to-day operations of a successful company."

VMware's hand-in-glove fit at EMC

BusinessWeek Online has a good interview with Diane Greene, one of the founders of virtual infrastructure software company VMware, about how it was eventually acquired by EMC in 2004 (See story). In the article, Greene explains how the company started in 1998 and found its niche in virtual-machine technology. The company was planning to go public when "all the sudden there was a tremendous amount of interest in acquiring us." The company wanted to continue to grow and since its products run "on every kind of hardware" it was out of the question to be acquired by a server or an operating systems company. EMC is clearly happy with the purchase. In EMC's first quarter report, VMware booked quarterly revenue of $80 million, a year-over-year increase of 104% (See story).

For something completely different….

Put on your headphones and get ready for a good yuck with this fun video on the "Institute for Backup Trauma" from LiveVault. The video features Monty Python's John Cleese as the institute's director (and a former patient) and has some of the same wacky humor of the British comic troupe. After the video, click around the Web site. I especially liked the "Top 10 Ways to Prevent Backup Trauma" (No. 10: Copy all the data by hand just in case your tape fails.) It also has some clever mentions of former "patients," including Bob Metcalfe, Dan Bricklin and the president and editorial director of our sister pub, Network World, John Gallant.

Bumper year for storage management

Sales of storage management software grew 12.3% in 2004 to $5.6 billion in licensing revenue, research firm Gartner Inc. said, and the firm predicts a 12% increase to $6.3 billion in 2005. Federal regulations that require companies to provide better archiving and data protection are the top reasons for the expected demand, Gartner said. "The need to better incorporate electronic records into a total records management solution will offer real opportunity for storage vendors, but customers will need to look beyond the hype to determine exactly how a specific storage product will fit into their process," said Carolyn DiCenzo, research vice president, in a statement.

Get perpendicular, oh yeah

When explaining a technology, why not make it easy to understand by having a little fun? Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Inc. has produced a clever Flash animation using singing and dancing bits that explain how perpendicular recording works. Some comments on Slashdot rightly suggest that the animation is a spinoff of the "Schoolhouse Rock" style, but it also has the hip-wriggling rhythms of the disco era. It's a fun little download. And if you want to know more about the technology, check out the Computerworld story.

More storage demand

Business continuity, federal requirements like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and multimedia use are spurring more companies to invest in data storage, according to two new surveys. The storage market is expected to grow by 35% this year, according to the Info~Tech Research Group, which surveyed more than 1,400 IT "decision makers." The survey also said storage spending would outpace investment in security software, servers and telephony. Meanwhile, the Enterprise Storage Forum cites a survey from analyst firm Robert W. Baird that found that storage resellers overwhelmingly anticipate a "positive year for storage spending."

One storage customer is bound to be Google, which announced that it's doubling the storage capacity for each user of its Gmail Web mail service from 1GB to 2GB.

The missing 270,000:

The Mizuho Bank of Japan said this week it had lost personal account information on 270,000 customers. The missing data included "names, account numbers and transaction histories" of customers at the bank's 167 branches, according to Reuters via the Financial Times. The information disappeared over several years and bank officials believe it was accidentally discarded and not stolen. An internal investigation found no evidence that the data had been misused, the article said.

The news is another embarrassment for the bank, which has more than 30 million customers. When three of Japan's largest banks consolidated to become Mizuho Bank Ltd. in 2002, computer glitches disrupted service at the bank's 7,000 ATMs, resulting in 30,000 transaction errors (See story).

Do you really need virtualization?

Enterprise Storage Forum asks the question in a straightforward article that urges users to think about the storage problems they are trying to solve rather than simply buying the newest new thing to save money. "Understanding what you are trying to accomplish will help you find the virtualization products that will provide the greatest ROI for your requirements," writes author Henry Newman.

Tips on data security: has a good article on risks to data security. The article, titled "Data at rest is a sitting duck," offers some useful tips for securing your data. It also points out some of the flaws in common security methods.

Take hints from consumers

More than 80% of adults said the security and accessibility of their online data are their key concerns when using online services, according to a Harris Interactive poll. About a quarter of those polled, said they expect this online data, such as e-mail, music files, photos, and financial information, to last forever. The poll results, which were released by Sun Microsystems, show the need for companies that provide these online services to have a solid storage strategy in place, said Mark Canepa, executive vice president of Sun Network Storage. The explosion in online data also explains part of the 3.5% growth in the enterprise disk storage industry in 2004, according to IDC.

European views of storage: IT managers at European companies prefer to manage their storage in-house because they don't trust managed data service providers. And unlike in the U.S., where companies must face the wrath of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, legislation isn't driving European companies to review their storage policies. Those statements are the result of a survey commissioned by networking company Ciena Corp. and reported in Vnunet. "Although compliance is a headache for many companies, … U.S. regulations do have a knock on effect in Europe, noted Ciena president Gary Smith. "In protecting an organization's integrity and operations, it becomes the responsibility of IT directors, as well as executive management, to be educated about data retention, protection requirements and implementation strategies."

It's getting a bit late for this but, Storage.ITWorld , another Web site whose parent company is IDG, like Computerworld, has a compelling list of forecasts for this year that would interest storage administrators. Among the predictions: that storage virtualization will really take off, Fiber Channel is not going away but iSCSI will make huge strides, and watch the Symantec-Veritas deal (See story) to see which Veritas products continue to be supported and which Symantec will integrate with its own.

Storage gets a bit of glitz: Storage isn't as glamorous as other parts of the high technology sector, such as PCs or VOIP, but it gets a boost with this article on storage virtualization from CBSMarketWatch. The article, which cites the technology as a way for companies to lower costs and manage their storage more easily, also notes some of the big players in the area, including EMC Corp., IBM and Sun. In a research report, Merrill Lynch analyst Steven Milunovich writes that "virtualization is complex, but compared to maintaining multiple servers with multiple operating systems in multiple configurations, it's viewed as a godsend." (A free registration is required.)

Speaking of storage management, Elliot King writes in WindowsITPro that users are making storage management one of their key considerations when choosing a storage technology product. The other areas of concern are "capacity, performance and price." "In the long run, the focus in storage might shift from the hardware infrastructure (e.g., servers, peripherals) to the software infrastructure (e.g., a component of an overarching infrastructure management layer), King writes. He also notes that nearly every sector of the storage software market grew sharply in the past year.

DVDs from corn: An environmentally friendly DVD disk made from corn-starch based polylactide has been developed by the Victor Company of Japan Ltd (JVC). The disk uses the polyactide-based transparent plastic for optical disks to improve heat resistance by about 15 degrees Celsius compared to conventional disks, the

JCN Network reports. The plastic can also be used for CDs and Blue-ray disks. According to Designinsite , polyactide is a "biodegradable thermoplastic derived from lactic acid," which can be obtained from starches in corn, wheat or sugar beets.

IT's stake in the next DVD format: There's been a lot of news this week about the rivalry between Blue-ray and HD DVD over optical disk standards in the entertainment industry. (Computerworld ran a couple of these articles. But what about the impact of these competing technologies on IT? NewsFactor cites a Frost & Sullivan analyst who says the outcome will be huge in the data storage industry. "With DVD already well on its way to replacing VHS completely, and archival storage poised to see optical storage as the preferred medium, the winner of this conflict could well be the biggest data storage medium in the market," Kannan says in a report. Stay tuned.


Better database security: Software that can prevent databases from releasing unauthorized information is under development at Penn State, the university's Web site reports. Called QFilter, the software lies between users and databases and filters out unauthorized requests for data before a database responds to a query. "We have shifted the thinking from data filtering to query filtering," said Dongwon Lee, assistant professor at Penn State's School of Information Sciences and Technology. "This is a practical solution to the ongoing problem of database access controls." The software "uses a specialized model of computation known as non-deterministic finite automata (NFA), which stores a large number of access control policies in an efficient and non-redundant fashion." Qfilter is not in its final version, and other applications are expected to be added.

The library on a Palm Pilot: The Library of Congress, that is. Researchers at the University of Houston's Cullen School of Engineering are working on developing the first nano-patterned medium recording (N-PMR) at the scale of one terabyte per square inch, the university said in a statement. The researchers, led by associate professor Dmitri Litvinov, are exploring "the physical limits of magnetic data storage in units only four nanometers in size." If successful, the technology could be used to store the entire Library of Congress on a Palm Pilot or put 1,000 movies on a two-inch disk, the university said. The research is funded by a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

MODS squad: British researchers have devised a way to increase the storage capacity of optical discs to hold 100 times the data of a DVD, The Register reports. The scientists from Imperial College use a technology called "'Multiplexed Optical Data Storage," or MODS, which "allows each pit in the disc's reflective data layer to store multiple values instead of just one." The articles says it would take another five years to perfect the technique in the lab, and then more time to put it to commercial use.

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