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Storage gadgets, gimmicks at trade show

Those who want to try out networked storage on the cheap should keep an eye out for the NetDisk from Ximeta. Also at Networld+Interop: trampolines and game shows.

LAS VEGAS--Those who want to sample networked storage on the cheap might keep an eye out for the NetDisk from Ximeta Technology.

The Irvine, Calif.-based start-up is using the NetWorld+Interop trade show here to launch a portable hard drive that plugs directly into an Ethernet network. The same drive also can be taken off the network and attached to a single PC as a USB 2.0 hard drive. The idea, says Ximeta President Edward Park, is to offer a portable drive that can be used by a whole work group in the office and then be taken home. Prices range from $269 for an 80GB drive to $399 for a 160GB drive.

Ximeta calls the concept a "Network Direct Attached Storage" device, further blurring the lines between storage that is connected to a PC or a server and attached to a network.

While most networked storage uses speedy, but expensive Fibre Channel networks, the NetDisk can plug directly into an Ethernet switch. "We just opened the technology to everybody," Park boasted.

In theory, such a drive could even plug into a home network, creating the frightening prospect of a new buzzword: the "Home Storage Area Network."

Although the NetDisk has a low price tag, it also has its drawbacks. The NetDisk doesn't use standard Internet protocols, meaning that any PC that wants to use the drive needs to install special software.

Also, it is not yet available. Park said that the company hopes to have the device on store shelves by June.

Games and gimmicks
Attendance at NetWorld+Interop may be more sparse than it has in years past, but there is no shortage of gimmicks at the conference. Two companies in particular stood out. First was Sprint, which had a trampoline near the entrance and hourly shows featuring world-ranked trampoliners and freestyle skiers bouncing around. Noticing my quizzical look, a booth worker explained: "Sprint sponsors the U.S. ski team." Ah. Well, there you have it.

But watching skiers bounce on their heads isn't nearly as painful as watching the bad takeoff on "The Dating Game" that was taking place at the booth of teleconferencing gear maker Polycom.

In "The Connecting Game," conference attendees were asked various questions by a perky blond hostess on a TV screen. The answers, which the show-goers read off a laminated script, invariably related to some Polycom product. After one contestant read his answer in a particularly droll monotone, the emcee quipped "Hey, are you an actor?"

Try this on for size
Fake game shows and trampolines are well and good, but you can't beat a good old-fashioned T-shirt giveaway.

So says trade show consultant Candy Adams, who was working at the Wi-Fi Alliance's pavilion. Adams, who has been doing trade shows for years, says that the value of the T-shirt has grown again now that freebies have become less ubiquitous.

The Wi-Fi Alliance used the allure of 100 percent cotton to send people on a scavenger hunt to find out information about various partners in the Wi-Fi pavilion. The ploy worked. By noon, more than half of the 100 T-shirts for the day were gone.

A lush business
From the not-sure-if-it's-good-or-bad department, I asked a bartender how business was going on the first day of the show. The response: "It's busier than I thought (it would be) before noon."