I left Comdex in Las Vegas last month feeling hopeful and distressed. Two things caused the distress.First, attendance of vendors and attendees was way off, continuing a trend we have seen with a number of the more generalized shows. We will just have to keep our fingers crossed that the show will make it over this hump and, as business travel again picks up, the attendees will return.The second distressing aspect of the show was the number of new storage vendors focused on providing RAID systems for the Windows server market. It is always good to have new players in the game, but users thinking of buying these low-end boxes are advised to remember the following: As much as 80% of the cost of owning a device is going to be in the maintenance, management and personnel costs incurred over the life of the product.Be advised that with many of these low-end machines, management seems to have been an afterthought. The ones I saw offered no remote management capability, and the marketing guys describing these boxes apparently hadn't a clue about why manageability would be important. These things might be suitable for use in a direct-attach environment, but what I saw certainly wasn't ready for prime-time enterprise-level IT shops.\u00a0\u00a0The hopeful part of the show - at least, the hopeful part I saw - occurred during the On-Demand Computing conference track. I ran three panel discussions there, one each on the future of storage, virtualization and autonomic computing. The panels had no overlap of speakers, but clearly there was an overlap when it came to understanding a fundamental requirement for all three subjects: Every vendor on each panel bought into the concept of standards compliance, and every vendor bought into the need for across-the-board interoperability.It is always interesting when I can get rival companies together on the same platform, but I have to admit that even though I was able to pull this off (getting FalconStor and DataCore on the virtualization panel, for example), all the participants took the high road and no sparks flew. This made for some very informative discussion, but alas, it would never have made it as a "reality" television program.My most enjoyable session was probably the one on autonomic computing, a topic I have discussed in this column on numerous occasions. IBM, Intel and Sun sent senior people to participate, and some of what lies in the future took on a little more clarity for the audience. Come to think of it, the possibility of the future the vendors described was the truly hopeful aspect of the show.My thanks to all of my panelists, who came from AppIQ, Computer Associates, DataCore, FalconStor, HP, IBM, Intel, Nortel and Sun. You all did a terrific job, and your efforts are much appreciated.One final note: I am again putting together my annual "storage wish list" for Santa. Each year I publish this around the end of December, and I always try to include some wishes from my readers. If there is anything you'd like to see from the vendors under the IT Christmas tree this year, drop me a line and I'll try to include your wishes with my own.