Vendors have a mid-year fest

Whatever happened to the concept of mid-year doldrums?Once, working in the computer industry was pretty much like living in France: a committee that was often ignored regulated language, not a whole lot took place during the summer months, and nothing ever happened in August. But look what has already happened in storage this month.

If you have been following the recent spate of announcements - and "counter-announcements" as well - you know that the dogs are out in packs and snapping excitedly at one another. Here's a lineup card so you can keep score of who is nipping at whom in this three-ring circus:

In the first ring (hardware), EMC is going after Hewlett-Packard and Sun.

Last week, EMC announced yet another entry in its midrange Clariion line, the CX600. This machine claims a 3X performance advantage (and a pricing advantage as well) over the previous top-of-the-line Clariion box, and is aimed squarely at the two major players in the midrange - HP and Sun.

Look for the same box to come out with the Dell logo as well, as that company continues to be a major reseller for EMC.

Additional sales will be through with Fujitsu and Unisys, with Avnet and Arrow in the role of industrial distributors. Which channel (if any) you should approach depends on your relationship with the various companies, and your assessment of the value-added services they can offer. And of course you will have to look closely at the price and performance numbers to understand if the CX600 offers a real advantage over competitors' systems for your environment.

No cogent response from either Sun or HP to date, but that may be because neither has actually seen one of these machines yet and they are waiting to make a (hopefully) measured response.

In the second ring (software), Sun at last, is starting to make some noise. A few days ago, it announced an enhanced StorEdge Enterprise Storage Manager suite, which includes SAN, device and health management modules. This joins Sun's existing data continuance, file management and volume management solutions under the "Sun One" Common Information Model (CIM) umbrella.

The CIM/BlueFin compliance will benefit Sun and other vendors down the road when BlueFin, the Storage Networking Industry Association's spec-in-progress that extends CIM to the management of interoperable, multivendor SANs, is finally finalized. In the meantime, today's users will like that Sun has rolled all its new management software under a single management console.

And in the third ring we have storage switches. Based on this week's announcement, Cisco looks to be pulling out all the stops as it goes after the SAN switch market with new products aimed at both centralized and distributed storage environments.

In the last quarter of this year Cisco will be release two devices, the 9216 fabric switch and the 9509 fabric director.

The 9509 is extremely interesting as it offers a 4X improvement in switching throughput capacity when compared with the high end McData and Brocade machines, and also supports FCIP (Fibre Channel IP) and iSCSI. Expect more members of this switch family next year.

Equally interesting, for those of us who have come to think of Cisco as essentially a hardware-first shop, is the company's new suite of management software, which manages fabric, systems and networks.

Maybe, in retrospect, the dog days of the northern summer may not be quite so dull. After all, the circus is in town.

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