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Wild & Crazy Storage Guys

If you ever have the chance to listen to Richie Lary give his take on the storage industry, do it. Not only is he one of the industry's brightest professionals, but he's also probably the funniest.

Lary is generally acknowledged as the "father of StorageWorks." More than two decades ago, he started DEC's StorageWorks line, a series of products and technologies that passed through Compaq via acquisitions to form the foundation of much of Hewlett-Packard's current storage business.

Now an independent consultant, Lary is as funny as Kramer in the Seinfeld TV show. He even looks like Kramer, with his hair sticking out of his head in every direction. And when Lary delivers a presentation, it's like listening to a combination of Bob Hope and EMC's Mike Ruettgers.

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JOSEPH F. KOVAR Can be reached via e-mail at jkovar@cmp.com.

At a recent end-user conference held by Nth Generation, a large HP storage solution provider, Lary doled out some of his pearls of wisdom to an audience of IT executives. For instance, he said he expects the industry to keep consolidating as customers show reluctance to buy storage from startups. "Their top message to vendors is, 'Save me money, or save my [butt] this year, or go away.' "

The increase in hard-disk storage density "gives you the benefits, because the cost of storage keeps falling. But you are the victims because this gives you more storage to manage," Lary said. "There's no other industry where so many brains chase so few profits."

Lary discussed the future of the current storage-interconnect technologies. In addition to parallel SCSI, Fibre Channel and ATA, one technology to watch this year is Serial ATA, "which has compressed all the deficiencies of ATA into two wires," he said. And one to watch next year is serial-attached SCSI, Lary added. "For disk companies that missed the Fibre Channel boat, it is the technology of the future," he said.

One obstacle to the adoption of low-cost iSCSI technology is the fact that so many end users have already invested heavily in Fibre Channel, Lary said. He compared the two technologies to the plumbing in a house. "iSCSI is the plastic pipes, compared to the copper pipes of Fibre Channel. You can install iSCSI by yourself. But both go to the same toilet. If you have a Fibre Channel SAN, why rip it out?" he said.

While most storage vendors have been talking about the need to adopt technologies to allow their various products to attach seamlessly to heterogeneous SANs, Lary said that's the opposite of what vendors really want to happen. "Vendors have been giving lip service to interoperability, but that has been B.S.," he said. "This is because the first mover in interoperability is at a disadvantage. It lets everyone else manage their storage."

The market has been slow to adopt disk-to-disk backup technology and, unfortunately, is forced to continue using tape technology, according to Lary. "Tape sucks," he said. "The only thing that sucks more than using tape is not using it."

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"There's no other industry where so many brains chase so few profits," storage consultant and funny man Rich Lary said at Nth Generation's recent end-user conference.

Apparently, Lary isn't the industry's only funny guy. Joining him at the Nth Generation event was Charles Curtis, manager of near-line storage for network storage solutions in HP's Enterprise Systems Group. Though using inexpensive hard drives for backups offers advantages such as instant recovery and point-in-time recovery, tape is still the safest media in most situations, Curtis said.

Curtis' advice is that if only one technology can be used, it should be tape. "But with the advent of disk-based backup systems, you can use disk," he said. "HP is working on disk-based backup. Will it ship? Yes. This year? I'll believe it when I see it."

Backing up data is significant, but it's not nearly as important as ensuring that data can be restored if needed, Curtis noted. "If you don't test your restores, keep a paper copy of your resume at home," he said.

Not to be outdone, Irvine, Calif.-based Stack Computer, one of EMC's largest channel partners, invited Jeff Goldberg, corporate evangelist at EMC, to introduce the vendor's new Symmetrix arrays. Goldberg compared the complexity of data storage today to the state of the manufacturing sector.

"Imagine if we ran manufacturing like data," Goldberg said. "You'd have a warehouse full of parts that you can't use to build products that are no longer available, and you would still be sitting around in the morning discussing how to build a new warehouse."

Still reading and writing,
Joseph F. Kovar

JOSEPH F. KOVAR is the storage editor for CRN

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