December, 2000 | My favorite movie this summer
was Godzilla 2000. No, not because it was any better
than any of the others (although it was a lot better than
that American take, no matter how great the special effects
were). I loved it because Godzilla just keeps coming back.
Never mind if he died in the last film, he's back again,
raring for action.
This seems to have been the theme for network storage
and video content in 2000. Remember Divx? Well, its back.
Okay, not the movie rental concept, but the name Divx. Recast
as DivX (note the capital X), it is the popular name for
the hottest new technology in digital contentMPEG-4.
After years of discussion to formulate a common spec, MPEG-4
has emerged as the video counterpart to MP3 for sound files.
DivX delivers high-quality images that require far less
bandwidth than MPEG-2. (For example, a standard two-hour
film takes 4GB on DVD/MPEG-2, only 650MB with DivX.) All
of this adds up to a lot more video delivered over a lot
more networks, Web included.
Over in jukebox land, it's been a marketing year with
a few highlights. NSM Storage debuted their 6000 system
with integrated Windows NT 4.0 server. This could prove
to be a killer NAS appliance and we hope to review it in
the not too distant future. Cygnet wowed the audience at
NAB2000 with a prototype five-jukebox RAID configuration.
With multi-megabyte throughput, it is the first serious
threat to conventional tape storage we have seen. Cygnet
recently lost their aggressive marketing VP to a startup,
so it remains to be seen if this optical RAID system finally
sees the light of day. We hope so.
Plasmon launched a full line of 12", 5.25", and CD/DVD
jukeboxes as a way of offering customers exactly what they
need. Plasmon feels that the high throughput demands of
video might just demand a 12" solutionbut the cool
new colors and design of the LTO tape libraries win my vote
for the "I Want One Next to My Desk" award.
Finally, a new low-end jukebox debuted this year from
PowerFile. Their C200 box has two MultiRead 2 drives (CD
and DVD), Mac-friendly FireWire connectivity, and 200-disc
capacity. What makes this a must-have enhancement is its
price$1800. Only once before have we seen a major
vendor, Sony, offer a jukebox in this price range, the similarly
configured, but now departed, Sony CDL1000. Maybe Sony had
the right idea at the wrong time, and the PowerFile C200
has arrived at just the right moment to make a big hit on
today's storage market. After all, with all those MP3 and
DivX discs we're going to generate over the next year we're
all going to need jukeboxes.
The big trend this year should have been the move to SAN
technologybut it wasn't. The industry remained fraught
with interoperability problems, but even with viable homogenous
solutions, had such a high-entry ticket price that most
potential continued to shy away.
There's a very real danger that this year's other hot
technology, Storage over IP, might just take the place of
SANs for everyday networks. Adaptec is heavily promoting
its version, EtherStorage, but there are a number of other
players angling for Storage over IP business. As the number
of NAS appliances grows, the versatility of Storage over
IP and low-cost of appliance hardware make for a killer
Although their Snap Server product line saw mostly refinements
since the beginning of the year (including the addition
of a rackmount unit), major NAS player Quantum will likely
push these even more heavily into the market now that they
have sold their hard disk business to Maxtor.
In the mid-range, pioneer Procom saw the competition heat
up. Connex debuted their NS3100 server with 288GB of RAID
storage, which puts it squarely against the Procom NetForce
1500. Procom, however, has unveiled increasingly powerful
systems, with their NetForce 2200 and 2500 being truly enterprise-ready
NAS units at 2.5TB capacity.
Curiously, Connex is also trying to make a major push
for its SANavigator software. This innovative Java-based
console attempts to overcome one of SAN's homogeneity hangups.
Rather than require similar OSs over the entire SAN, SANavigator
supports multiple-platform clients for its management functions.
While not a complete SAN OS like Sanergy and SAN Manager,
it forms one part of an effective solution.
Of course, no discussion of optical network storage would
be complete without a mention of SmartStorage. While SmartStor
remains the definitive software solution for optical storage
management, SmartStorage is looking forward with their InfiNet
software, which creates a virtual storage environment of
existing RAID, DVD, MO, and tape peripherals. Users see
their data at the same hard disk location they stored it
at, even while InfiNet performs migrations of data to secondary
or tertiary storage devices. The key is that users can still
access the data without having to remigrate it back to a
hard disk as older HSM software would require.
The biggest news of all this year, however, has to be
the incredible fall in PC prices. If full-screen, full-motion
video is to be a staple of PC training and entertainment,
today's sub-$800, 500MHz+ systems with their 128MB RAM,
20GB hard drives, and 32MB video cards are poised to deliver
it to strapped admins. This bodes very well for no-fuss
video editing, viewing, and storing in every officejust
as low-cost laser printers and easy-to-use software made
desktop publishing a reality for every user as well.