Storage Industry Pursues Utility Computing

A couple of interesting corporate acquisitions a couple of weeks ago highlight the direction the storage industry is going, despite the fact that the acquisitions were of companies that make very different kinds of products.

First was the July 13 announcement that Adaptec is buying Snap Appliance. Best known for its storage adapter products, Adaptec has been working hard to build market share outside the board-level component business--a fairly flat market that hasn't experienced the same sort of growth that the device side of the storage industry has shown. Adaptec has been pushing hard into the midrange Storage Area Network (SAN) market with the introduction of Serial ATA (SATA) storage arrays that connect through Internet SCSI (iSCSI) or Fibre Channel. The acquisition of Snap Appliance boosts Adaptec into the Network Attached Storage (NAS) market for small and midsized businesses.

Exemplifying the utility computing model, Snap Appliance devices give storage administrators a Plug and Play (PnP) solution to adding storage to their networks without adopting the additional technologies that SAN implementations require. The acquisition takes Adaptec head-to-head with well-known vendors of NAS storage, such as EMC and Network Appliance, while giving the company the advantage of Snap Appliance's name recognition in the NAS market.

Adding Adaptec's well-known technologic skills to the Snap brand should help give customers who are evaluating storage vendors a good feeling about the combined companies. Adaptec's strong relationships with OEMs should also open new avenues for Snap Appliance products as OEMs look to put their own brand on the storage technologies that their customers demand. The acquisition will also make Adaptec one of the few vendors able to offer end-to-end storage solutions, from board-level components to SAN hardware, with common software management tools across the board.

The second acquisition was the July 14 announcement that VERITAS Software has bought Invio Software, which produces IT process-automation software. Invio was already a big part of VERITAS's push into utility storage, providing the process automation engine used in VERITAS CommandCentral Service 4.0. VERITAS believes that the key to utility computing is in the software, which lets customers manage, provision, and control all their storage devices from one interface and performs much of the hard work behind the scenes.

Invio's technology gives VERITAS's software the ability to use a simple point-and-click interface to do tasks that would otherwise take hours of detailed work. A storage administrator can pick and choose among storage devices and let the Invio process automation technology that's embedded in CommandCentral Service take care of the most time-consuming parts of the deployment and provisioning process, such as configuring the storage and assigning rights and permissions.

Although very different, both acquisitions highlight the importance the industry is placing on technologies that make adding large amounts of storage as easy as possible for the IT department. Although the utility computing model has yet to grab the mindshare necessary to be truly successful, the idea of utility storage has few, if any, detractors, and the push to make utility storage a reality for corporate consumers is coming from all directions in the storage products industry.

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