Security, storage vulnerability

Sometimes you find some very surprising things in the results of a survey. Last week I was looking at a survey that Symantec conducted during a recent Black Hat convention.

As expected, the survey was focused on security. I was hoping to find some interesting data points that fell into the twilight zone at the crossroads of storage and security -- but something else caught my attention.

The survey kept a separate tally for answers given by "researchers" and another given by "IT or other managers" attending Black Hat. It's a simplification, but I like to think of the first group as security providers and the second group as security users.

There was a telling divide between concerning which security aspects each group considered important. You can view the survey slides here.

In essence, IT managers were asked in which area they felt more vulnerable, while researchers where asked about which area they were going to research. The two questions seem complementary, like the two sides of the same coin. Nevertheless, the groups' respective answers contrasted sharply. According to the survey, 32 percent of IT managers' vulnerability concerns involve databases, backup systems, and management software (Slide 6 of the survey PowerPoint file). Move to Slide 8, and you will see that only 22 percent of researchers express some interest for that category. The researchers' preference -- at a resonating 46 percent -- is for researching security for operating systems.

Could this difference between security providers and users be the reason why so many companies have egg on their face after losing unsecured media or laptops? Or is the IT managers' concern driven by the threat of embarrassing headlines? Perhaps Symantec and other providers should take a hard look at those two slides and try to reconcile the diverging expectations

Back to storage: I learned this week of a couple of interesting new products, one in the mainframe space, the other oriented to small and midsize enterprises.

IBM is one of the vendors, but not for the mainframe stuff. Instead, Big Blue announced yet another storage array, the IBM System Storage DS4200 Express Model. "Express" refers to a promise of easy setup, but don't be surprised if you get a twinge of deja vu when looking at the unit photo, because the box looks much like its DS4700 or DS4800 siblings.

All the units are built around the same flexible architecture by LSI Logic, but what's in the box can be quite different. In fact, the DS4200 connects via 4Gb FC to dual active controllers, each with 1GB of cache. This 3U box can mount as many as 16 SATA drives at 500 GB each; that gives you 8TB of nominal capacity, but you can add up to six expansion units and pile up 112 drives.

Compare that with a recent array from NetApp that stops at just 6TB capacity, and it's difficult to believe that these two products target the same SMB customers.

The price is also different. The DS4200 starts at about US$11,500 without drives, but includes dual controllers, array management software, and a promising three years of next-day, business hours maintenance. Did I ever say that comparing the price of storage devices was easy?

You won't have problems comparing Bus-Tech's new mainframe rig to other systems because, well, I don't know of anything similar in that space. However, the MDL-4000 (Mainframe Data Library) is the logical equivalent of a VTL (virtual tape library) with the significant distinction of having no data stored inside the unit.

Like a conventional VTL, the MDL-4000 attaches to an IBM or Unisys mainframe via FICON or ESCON and can emulate as many as 1,024 tape drives (model IBM 3480 or 3490). You can direct your applications to write to these ghost tape drives without major changes.

The MDL-4000 will direct all the tape data to its own connected NAS devices. The unit supports a variety of NAS solutions from many vendors, according to Bus-Tech, or you can attach an EMC Centera or a NetApp SnapLock if compliance is a concern.

At a starting price of about US$110,000 without any NAS devices -- that's small change in the mainframe world -- the MDL-4000 will probably make you feel that storage is not so expensive after all.

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