Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/12/10/storage_and_servers_2007_in_review/

VMware clobbers the world, while big, solid disks rise

IBM, Intel, AMD - all there

By Austin Modine

Posted in Servers, 10th December 2007 09:28 GMT

Year in review Our most recent orbit around the sun has been a busy one for the world of servers, chips and storage.

New (old) technology has invaded the data center, disks got bigger, chips got smaller and everyone decided to become a Planeteer.

Virtualization - Like you didn't know it was coming

EMC finally sold shares of its x86 virtualization software maker VMware, creating one of the IPO stunners of the year as well as the latest darling of the industry. The sale was a much-desired appeasement to investors who had grown bitter watching VMware sales explode while EMC's share price had sputtered at about $13.75 for as long as anyone could remember.

The hype over hypervisors was well into a full foam as EMC announced the deal. But when the VMware shares hit Wall Street, the resulting rich and creamy lather reminded one and all the tech IPO madness of the late 1990s could still rise to haunt us.

Citrix turned out its pockets and found $500m to acquire XenSource, the developer of the open source Xen hypervisor. The enormous sum gave Citrix some much-needed market appeal while giving XenSource the corporate R&D backing to fight its hulking rival VMware.

XenSource had previously been struggling to capture a significant piece of the virtualization battlefield despite strong ties with both Linux and Windows camps. Sun and Virtual Iron are tinkering away at their virtualization products based on Xen as well.

Microsoft? Nah, we'll just have to wait until next year for that one.

iSCSI Storage A-Go-Go

If server virtualization is the strapping, athletic youth of the data center, storage virtualization is the short fat kid huffing, "Hey! Wait up guys! Come on! Wait up!"

There's one in every group.

In truth, the storage guys used to lead the server clan with virtualization. A couple of years back, the likes of EMC, IBM, Hitachi and HP made peace around their storage APIs. After that they all went charging after heterogeneous, virtualized software glory.

These days, however, the server crowd receives all the attention because it's more flash than the disk set.

Still, storage firms did take a stand this year with a new virtualization pitch, pinning their hopes on iSCSI. It's the poor man's - sorry SMBs' - route to flexible file sharing.

Dell did iSCSI, NetApp did it, IBM did it, EMC...

Dell, in fact, loves iSCSI so much that it acquired EqualLogic for $1.4bn. Of course, it already had an iSCSI OEM deal with EMC. Awkward. That should bring some interesting conflicts in 2008. A reporter can dream, can't he?

What else happened in 2007? Let us help you remember.

Green Computing

OK, so the tech industry had been hyping green gear well before 2007, but this year the vendors finally formed the committees that will elect the subcommittees that will vote on a board which will select a chairman to choose the stationaries that could be used to write down the minutes for getting something done.

The Green Grid became an an official organization (although that didn't stop it from pumping the press well before it even created a charter). When the big names Intel and Microsoft joined the crew, most of the industry followed step — and oh, how the cup of data center efficiency white papers doth overflow. Assuming you pay the annual fee, of course. Even when rescuing mother nature there's no such thing as a free lunch.

The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) (gesundheit) created a matching pair of coalitions too. There's the SNIA Green Storage Initiative and the SNIA Green Storage Working Group. The difference being one develops tutorials and educational materials, while the other works on metrics. Also, their slow pitch baseball teams meet at at different restaurants after games.

We'll also give a nod to the Intel and Google-led Climate Savers Computing Initiative. It's backed by the usual gang of Silicon Valley suspects, but has a pretty reasonable aim. The group is dedicated to driving demand for better, cheaper power supply units. The members have pledged to produce and purchase PCs with 80 per cent efficient power supplies between July 2007 and 2008, and will up that to 85 per cent through June 2009. Similar rules apply for servers.

IBM's Mainframe Assault

It's good to be the king, but start swinging your scepter at a few too many heads, and the serfs start whispering "Magna Carta".

IBM has sat on the mainframe throne since...well, since. The US government has been keen on watching Big Blue's behavior in the market, but antitrust rulings against the company were shelved in 2001, when all the mainframe competitors jumped out of the market.

Now the small-scale IBM emulators and resellers are accusing the hardware giant of returning to its anti-competitive ways.

Platform Solutions Inc (PSI) was sued by IBM for patent infringement in February. The start-up returned fire with a countersuit accusing Big Blue of abusing its mainframe monopoly to keep competitors out of the market. Another upstart mainframe house, T3 Technologies, is asking to to join the countersuit as well.

Meanwhile, the leading IBM mainframe reseller QSGI says it's going to leave the business because of a "leading OEM" killing its ability to reconfigure systems for customers. The company says it's reaching out to this (rather IBMish-sounding) OEM to resolve the issue, but may file an antitrust lawsuit if things don't progress as hoped.

Solid State and Big Ol' Drives

Solid-state drives for the mass market actually began to appear this year. Oh sure, they were expensive and hard to find — but can you really put a price on smug superiority of owning emerging technology?

No you can't. Unfortunately vendors have no problem doing so.

Big names that got serious about the SSD market this year include Samsung, SanDisk, Seagate and Ssss—Micron.

The fat-walleted could also choose a traditional disk drive alternative reaching 1TB in 2007.

In January, Hitachi claimed bragging rights by announcing "the world's first" 1TB desktop hard drive. Seagate joined soon thereafter with its Barracuda 1TB HDD. Samsung spun its own too, the SpinPoint F1 series.

Because you are doubtlessly curious: a 1TB drive could hold approximately 2,731 separate instances of the video game Doom.

Chips n' Dips

Intel and AMD kept slugging it out.

No sorry, let's rephrase that: One was slugging and the other was out.

Late in the year, Chipzilla released processors based on its 'Penryn' 45nm architecture. The new chips are loaded with almost twice as many transistors as the 65nm variety. Intel also redesigned the transistor materials — swapping out silicon for a metal gate combined with hafnium oxide as an insulator.

While Intel was toasting themselves for the launch, AMD was quietly canceling an event designed to draw attention to its four-core 'Barcelona' rollout.

Barcelona supposedly is out there. Yes, we're sure Bigfoot and Elvis are enjoying it in their secret underground hideout. As for the rest of us...not so much.

AMD is even taking down the SPEC (the Standard Performance Evaluation Corp.) benchmarks performed to date with the chips. The chip maker failed to meet the "general availability" requirements for a product demanded by SPEC due to shipping Barcelonas on a customer-by-customer basis. The units that are shipping have a bug that needs to be taken care of before AMD will ship to a mass audience.

Things we learned this year: AMD doesn't like a smug tone when reporting on bad news.

Note to self: Repair sunshine and rainbow machine if we want AMD to speak to us again.

If the big fellas bored you during the year, then you can read all about the littler types out there making server accelerators.

Anything we missed? ®