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Notes from SNW: Encryption shifts to disk drives

Dave Raffo, News Director

There were several technical reasons why early products aimed at storage encryption failed. They were often slow, did not scale well and had rudimentary key management. But perhaps they were just aimed at the wrong media.

The first encryption appliances from vendors, such as Decru (now part of NetApp), Neoscale (now part of nCipher) and Kasten-Chase (no longer in business) were considered tape encryption devices. That made sense at the time because the biggest perceived threat to data at rest was lost tapes.

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Most of our green initiative started around cost savings, a different kind of green
Ed Goldman
VP of technology and operations planningMarriott
Now, the future of storage encryption has shifted to disk. EMC unveiled a disk encryption product at Storage Networking World in Florida last week, and while Seagate launched its FDE (full-disk encryption) Cheetah drives at the RSA conference, its storage partners IBM and LSI vowed their continued support at SNW.

EMC built encryption from its RSA security company into its PowerPath management software. EMC's PowerPath Encryption with RSA product encrypts and decrypts data at the host as it is sent to and from the disk array and uses RSA Key Management to manage encryption keys.

Why encrypt disk arrays that reside in the data centre and aren't likely to get lost? Doc D'Errico, EMC vice president of infrastructure software, points out that disk leaves the data centre more than most people think. When drives are repurposed or decommissioned, sensitive data can be at risk.

IBM first demonstrated disk encryption with Seagate and LSI last fall. IBM also encrypts tape in its TS1120 libraries. Its storage general manager Andy Monshaw told an SNW audience that encryption is a technology that needs to be implemented across the board. "A few years ago, some tapes fell off a truck, and we saw a rush of encryption devices," Monshaw said. "But they were point products. They didn't scale."

Human side of FCoE

A storage manager for a US health care firm said his boss sent him to SNW in part to learn all he could about Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). And what did he learn? "We'd have to work with the network guys," said the manager, who did not want to be identified for obvious reasons. "And we hate those guys."

Most IT shops probably don't have such enmity between storage and network teams, but he still raises a good point. There will be turf wars around FCoE that may hinder adoption in a lot of organisations.

Green goes underground

Although hotel operator Marriott is known as an environmentally friendly corporation, its vice president of technology strategy said that had little to do with its green IT initiative.

"I'd love to tell you Marriott IT saw An Inconvenient Truth and decided to implement a green initiative," said Marriott's Ed Goldman during an SNW address. "But most of our green initiative started around cost savings, a different kind of green."

Marriott's money-saving green initiative included many of the usual ways of saving power - using virtualisation to consolidate servers, switching from PCs to thin clients, upgrading cooling and power supplies and powering down equipment not in use. But it also found an unusual way to reduce power - it leased space for a second data centre at an underground facility below a coal mine in Pennsylvania. When the data centre opens in August, it should require less cooling than traditional data centres and can be managed remotely.

ISE or Ice?

IBM chief technical strategist Clod Barrera said Xiotech's new Intelligent Storage Element (ISE) Emprise systems look familiar.

"This looks a lot like what IBM was talking about with IceCube. No cables, just stacked systems," Barrera said, referring to the Big Blue storage system that never saw the light of day.

The original IceCube design in 2002 was a three-dimensional stack of 8-inch bricks, each filled with hard drives, network switches and processors. Xiotech's Emprise is also an array inside an enclosed case, built on technology developed at Seagate.

Wyse move

EMC's acquisition of WysDM doesn't mean the WysDM software will become purely a backup and monitoring tool for EMC Networker. WysDM CEO Alan Atkinson said support for all popular applications is one of the key strengths of WysDM's products that monitor backup, file servers and disk.

"EMC fully understands that WysDM's power lies in the multitude of products against which it can report and analyse, and as a true open software company, completely supports this goal," Atkinson wrote in an open letter to WysDM customers posted on the company's Web site.

It was WysDM's need to continue to expand its support that led to the $26 million (£13m) acquisition. WysDM was the rare storage company that grew organically without venture capitalist funding, surviving for seven years and turning a profit. But Atkinson said he realised WysDM needed help this year to continue to grow.

"We had three options," he said. "We could continue to try and grow organically, but would have had to spend a lot of our money to do that. We could have taken venture capitalist money and had plenty of interest, but we thought accepting EMC's offer was the best way to go. We know them, they know us, and the [OEM] partnership had worked out well."

EMC has sold WysDM for Backups as Backup Advisor since 2005.

Growing up with SaaS

Asigra has been in the backup storage Storage-as-a-Service (SaaS) business since long before anyone used that acronym. Now the Toronto-based company is looking to ride the SaaS wave of attention created by backup service platforms from larger vendors, such as EMC, Symantec, IBM, Seagate and Iron Mountain, over the past year.

Asigra has done well selling to small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), claiming to sell through more than 300 managed service providers (MSP) who target those markets. Now it has added four senior executives with experience working with global enterprise accounts and is looking to add more to go after MSPs that sell to global enterprise customers. "When the Tier 1 storage guys got into the game, it caught the attention of the larger [MSPs]," said Eran Farajun, Asigra executive vice president. "They're looking to get a platform from us."

Farajun said Asigra is also ready to launch a product upgrade with multidirectional replication, support for VMware ESX 3i and other backup features for storage and server virtualisation. "You have to do things differently in the virtual world than in the physical world," he said.