I attended three conferences last week: Spring Comdex, the Waterside Conference, and Storage Networking World. The differences among the three were striking.

The first conference, Comdex, filled the entire floor of Chicago's McCormick Place just a year ago. Microsoft was there touting Windows 2000, and Bill Gates gave the keynote address. This year, few major companies attended, and the show filled less than half the floor. The other half held the Waste Management Expo, and those folks seemed to be having a better time. Storage companies at Comdex included Sun, XioTech, and VERITAS. Several factors probably hurt Comdex—companies are being cautious about expenditures, Comdex's timing was close to CeBIT's, and generalist consumer shows might be losing some appeal.

The second event I attended was the Waterside Conference, sponsored by Bill Gladstone, who runs one of the largest computer-book agencies. The computer-book publishing market is crowded, and it has shrinking margins and intense competition from online information sources. If you can find an answer to a support question online, why buy a book? (Not surprisingly, many publishers have added or are adding Web components to their ventures.)

The third event was the highlight: Storage Networking World (Palm Springs) grew from 1700 attendees at the previous show to 2300, and many of the serious practitioners attended. Storage Networking World is a joint venture of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and Computerworld, and although conference organizers bemoaned the lack of general public participation, vendor support was superb.

Storage Networking World includes different session tracks, a vendor show, the SNIA interoperability lab demonstrations, and many training sessions. The vendor show was open for only 2 days (during meal times), which meant I missed several vendors I wanted to contact.

Many vendors saved their product announcements for Storage Networking World. To the extent the show had a theme, it was Storage-over-IP (SoIP). Cisco officially announced its Storage Networking Initiative and its SN5420 router. Many in the industry believe Cisco will be a significant new player. Other announcements included McData's new Director switch and Emulex's SCSI-over-IP (iSCSI) board (both noted in last week's Storage UPDATE), StorageNetworks and Network Appliance's additions to their software portfolios, Gadzoox's 16-port 2Gbps FC Slingshot switch, and CNT's Edge Storage Router and FCIP support.

Also, Adaptec announced its iSCSI host bus adapter (HBA), a 1Gb, 64-bit, 66MHz Ethernet controller that offloads TCP/IP processing from the server and enables access to block-level storage data. Adaptec's AEA-7110C was part of an interoperability demonstration (with IBM) that demonstrated how customers could build a Storage Area Network (SAN) using their existing IP/Ethernet networks.

The Direct Access File System (DAFS) and Infiniband folks were there; I will cover both in future columns. The show also had a notable number of Storage Service Providers (SSPs), whose industry is dividing into two sectors: SSP utilities (they own the equipment) and SSP services (you own it).

The conference's interoperability demonstrations were more extensive than those I saw in Colorado Springs when SNIA opened its laboratories, with the large-frame vendors and several industry initiative groups taking part at Storage Networking World.

If you have an interest in storage networking, I highly recommend that you attend Storage Networking World.

Next week, I'll have some results from the Storage survey we ran. Stay tuned.