December 19, 2020 | Jay Carlson, the inventor of SAN,
likes to say that "together, we are smarter than any one
else." By which, he means that teaming produces a synergy greater
than any one part. In technology, we see that an effective network
is a synergy of hardware, software, and talented operators. In
marketing, an effective technology is a synergy of hardware and/or
software, and talented integrators and promoters. Sadly, we don't
see enough of either.
At various times, I have commented here on the need for more
effective synergies both in technology and in marketing. I feel
strongly there is a four-part storage architecture for an effective
digital content network: solid state cache, RAID arrays, tape
backup, and automated libraries for long term nearline/offline
archiving. While the first three enjoy a near-universal market,
the last--the use of libraries or jukeboxes--remains a niche at
best. This despite a bull market for storage and the ideal applicability
of CD/DVD to content archives.
So, when I received a phone call from Rich Harada about a new
trade group focusing on libraries, I sat up and took notice. This
is big news for storage in 2001 and if it is done right, which
I think will be, I want to get the word out about it. Fortunately
I have known Rich for some time--he practically introduced 12-inch
optical storage to the U.S. He now serves as the facilitator of
the High Density Storage Association (HDSA), which started in
December 2000. Rich explained that the HDSA's goal is to promote
the use of multi-drive automated libraries by creating a forum
for vendors, integrators, and end-users. Together, they can communicate
the message about the value of jukeboxes. I believe this is an
essential step; no single library vendor today has sufficient
clout to convince IT professionals as a whole to start using jukeboxes.
At present, they aren't using them for two reasons: first, integrators
and resellers find creating solutions with jukeboxes difficult.
Second, most end-users haven't heard of automated libraries or
don't understand their role and value in a networked environment.
Integrators who do understand jukeboxes find that there are
too many buying equations in the process. They ask: Which jukebox?
Which driver software? Which storage management system? Which
digital asset management software? and so on. As I discovered
with the video archiving system at Pacific Bell Park [See September
2000 Case Study, pp. 24-25--Ed.], end-users will eagerly buy
a service that includes a jukebox, but won't take the time to
create such a service on their own. Thus, a forum where vendors
and integrators can work through this solution-generation in advance-invisibly
to the already overwhelmed end-user-can only be a good thing.
Sharing a common promotional "face" with the HDSA should make
it easier for vendors to educate the market about the merits of
libraries. The HDSA does face a challenge in getting keenly competitive
vendors together. (However, these same vendors probably know by
now that they have to grow together or they will all shrink together.)
Anytime a new group appears, I look to see if the group's charter
clearly answers an unmet need in that industry--otherwise why
set up yet another organization? The HDSA's goal of promoting
libraries does differentiate it from the optical standards focus
of OSTA and the SAN focus of SNIA, although all three can and
should be mutually beneficial. (For one, the HDSA might come to
understand why jukeboxes are a no-show on SANs although they should
be a great archive there.) Rich assures me that both OSTA and
SNIA are supportive of the HDSA. Hopefully both will continue
to offer a strong leg up to the newborn.
The group even seems to have started off right by using a name
that highlights a benefit of jukeboxes--a small footprint that
bears the weight for terabytes of storage--as opposed to a propeller-head
moniker like Multi-Drive Chassis Group or Nearline Storage Forum.
Oh, now there's a tradeshow party I'd love to go to.
According to Harada, the HDSA will have two working groups,
one technical and one for marketing. The technical group will
look into such areas as quantifying cost-of-ownership issues,
creating a compatibility and performance lab, and establishing
standardized benchmarks. (These should help both in selling and
integrating jukeboxes.) The marketing group will look at greater
tradeshow presence and targeted vertical marketing efforts. (It
would be nice if there were a consistent and memorable message
out there--like "Got jukes?").
Some analysts feel that the jukebox market has already peaked.
My impression is that word just hasn't gotten around yet, as the
PacBell Park DVD-RAM library points out. Here's a whole new vertical
market that could double current usage levels of jukeboxes. A
market that, until PacBell Park tried it, wasn't even acknowledged.
With the continuing growth in popularity for 120mm optical storage
(read this as MP3 on CD-Rs, MPEG-2 on DVD-RAM, etc.,) libraries
should be a natural part of the equation. So, until all of those
markets have been directly addressed, it is not a forgone conclusion
that jukeboxes are a weak alternative to a RAID array with tape
With a consistent marketing message, coherent interoperability,
and easy integration--thanks to the HDSA, I hope--not to mention
the new UDF spec for WORM, (a boon to DVD-RAM, which can now serve
as an reasonable write-once alternative to DVD-R), jukebox libraries
may just now be entering their prime of life.
The HDSA welcomes new members, individuals, educational groups,
and interested vendors. For complete contact information for the
HDSA, visit http://www.highdensity.org.