Anew trade group, the Storage Network Industry Association of Canada (SNIA Canada), is hoping to capitalize on the growing field by serving members with industry promotion and education initiatives. The spinoff from the U.S. parent group says the sector is a US$800 million business in Canada, which represented a rich stomping ground in which to branch off. Wayne Hogan, acting head of SNIA Canada and Canadian storage manager for SUN Microsystems Canada Inc., a founding member of the group, says: "We’re just trying to help promote the industry and secondly educate the marketplace and end users." Much of this education will take place in a technology neutral manner, he adds. "We’ll be working with end users to create seminars, to present technology trends," says Hogan. Inaugural meetings will take place in Toronto and Montreal next month on a new initiative dubbed iScuzzy (short for Internet small systems computer interface), a storage networking standard designed to lower the cost of networking more storage devices within the enterprises. "That’s one of our kick-off meetings to educate the end users in a technology agnostic way, a vendor agnostic perspective," Hogan tells Report on Wireless. SNIA Canada will also play a training role, working with an Ottawa-based organization that conducts storage area networking training. Members of the association will receive discounts on courses, and a certification program for professionals is planned. The importance of storage and storage networking has grown significantly in recent years as a greater number of servers are deployed by a wide variety of enterprise users - the direct result of enterprises deploying more hardware to handle growing data requirements. Hogan says that a typical rule of thumb is that data within an enterprise grows at an annual rate of 50% to 80%. Competitive advantage used to be linked to geographic location, explains Hogan, but data collection and analysis is rapidly becoming important in its own right as a step ahead of the competition. "Being at Yonge and Dundas for a bookstore is one way to do be able to attract customers, using data would be another way," he says. Business intelligence software for data mining and customer relationship management (CRM) applications are two prime examples of data use. Networking has become increasingly important to the storage industry as well, and there are significant advantages to managing that environment effectively. In a direct connect environment, adding greater storage capacity to a server involves taking it offline and adding more components, whereas in a networked setting a click of the mouse moves the storage availability from one server to the next. "That’s why there has been such a huge growth in the storage networking environment…If you can network all of those environments together, you now can share that access storage across the enterprise, so there’s a lot of economies of scale, says Hogan. While the Canadian organization will work primarily to educate and raise awareness, its members, along with those of the worldwide association, will help develop and promote standards in the storage industry. Hogan explains that interoperability between vendors is important, but ensuring that the software applications that manage storage environments work together is equally critical. When the association officially launched on September 21, there were eight founding members including SUN, Cisco Systems, EMC Canada, Hitachi Data Systems, and others. Hogan estimates that SNIA Canada will be able to sign up between 100 and 200 member companies, including end users, within the next year. In the U.S. the Storage Networking Industry Association was registered in 1997 and counts hundreds of member companies and institutions worldwide, including in Europe, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. It operates a 14,000 square foot training facility in Colorado, the SNIA Technology Center Institute.