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In my job, you can't help but become a storage expert. Believe me, I'm not bragging; I think it's more a matter of osmosis than intelligence. I sit among a bevy of experts at the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), so I hear the latest storage industry trends and scuttlebutt on a daily basis. What's more, a new ESG research report containing the latest user attitudes and trends magically appears on my desk every few months. With this type of input, I could learn about storage in my sleep--as could most other people.
As we conclude another calendar year, I can safely say the storage industry is buzzing again. No, it's not as frenzied as it was during the Internet boom and probably won't be again in our lifetimes, but dollars are clearly being spent by IT departments and investments are being made by venture capitalists. Storage capacity continues to grow, technology is getting faster and cheaper, and there are still plenty of places to innovate.
Of course, the New Year is an excellent time to look at the market, reflect on the past year and project into the future. Here's my attempt at prognostication for five trends, based on an aggregate of ESG wisdom.
- Information lifecycle management (ILM) is becoming a reality. My colleague Nancy Hurley defines ILM as a series of processes rather than products, and this is as true today as when she first said it two years ago. Nevertheless, there has been some progress worth noting.
- First, leading storage consumers are actively engaged in some form of data classification, a foundation of ILM. In a recent ESG research report, 40% of respondents said they classify data, while another 20% said they plan to do so in the future. Once the data is classified, it's easier to define and automate ILM policies. Anecdotally, we've also seen more companies moving to tiered storage architectures that can provide quality of service for different business applications. Most ILM efforts to date have been manual processes supported by tools such as spreadsheets and project management software, but this is likely to change. In 2005, the industry will deliver more automation, adding fuel to an already smoldering ILM fire. ILM is also a case in which a rising tide floats all boats. In other words, ILM's progress is likely to affect other segments of the storage industry next year and beyond.
- Backup is being modernized. On the other end of the spectrum from snappy new ILM tools, backup is still broken. According to ESG's research, nearly one-quarter (24%) of companies say 20% or more of their tape-based backups fail. What's more, 51% of survey respondents worry or know that their current backup schedule leaves some of their data exposed to potential loss. Another 29% believe their current backup and recovery solution doesn't provide their desired level of application availability and recovery time. Disk-based backup continues to evolve as the solution; respondents expect that two years from now, 53% of all protected data will be backed up to disk at some point. That's good news for data availability moving forward, and it should make 2005 sweet for Diligent Technologies, FalconStor Software and Sepaton.
- Storage security is becoming a requirement. This issue has been debated for a few years: "When will storage security really take off?" The answer is now. Sure, storage security is mostly a concern of high-end firms and the government sector, but ESG believes it will become a more widespread concern in the near term. Why more security? In a recent ESG research report, 57% of respondents said the most likely storage security influence is regulatory compliance, while 56% believe an auditor's recommendation would drive storage security spending. This new focus on storage security couldn't come at a better time, as ESG believes most companies are woefully underprepared. Thirty percent of survey respondents don't include storage technologies in their security policies and procedures, and 36% haven't conducted a security audit of their storage infrastructure. It's little wonder 27% of storage professionals claim they had a storage security breach, didn't know if they had one, or couldn't tell one way or the other. Looking to 2005, expect leading vendors to embrace security as part of their solutions. This bodes well for innovative startups such as Decru, Kasten Chase and NeoScale Systems, whose products will likely find their way into many storage security bundles.
- The small- and medium-sized business (SMB) market is heating up. Storage vendors are wooing this market and for good reason. According to ESG research, 35% of SMBs have deployed networked storage, 13% are actively evaluating networked storage and another 26% are considering it. The primary objectives for moving to networked storage are to improve data availability (63%) and centralize backup/recovery (55%). Storage consumers across the SMB space believe the most likely vendors to deliver products will be Dell (30%) and Hewlett-Packard (HP) (21%). Of the SMB companies that don't have networked storage, data availability and centralized backup/recovery are the key motivators for implementing a storage network. It seems that protecting corporate information is a common objective that never goes out of style. Watch for vendors to put together specific product and service bundles to address SMB needs in 2005. EMC's Clariion AX100 is a great example. Dell (with EMC), HP and IBM have great volume opportunities and existing distribution channels to capitalize on.
- The storage fabric will become more intelligent. This trend has been batted around for years, but evidence suggests it's finally coming to fruition. Twenty-one percent of the organizations surveyed by ESG say they have deployed some form of intelligent storage network solution. Another 21% say they have plans to deploy an intelligent storage network and 31% say they would consider doing so. Early adopters tend to be from organizations with a total storage capacity of 500TB or more--i.e., the storage elite. Respondents look to intelligent storage networks to deliver shared services such as volume management, provisioning, virtualization and replication. Intelligent fabric early adopters generally report high levels of satisfaction with intelligent storage network technology--78% say they are "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the solutions they've deployed.
Even with these early successes, there's still a great deal of work to do. Users need to be educated on products, while vendors must focus on availability and better standards. Despite these tasks, ESG believes 2005 will accelerate the movement of intelligence to the fabric. Our research indicates that big name vendors like Brocade Communications Systems, Cisco Systems, EMC, IBM and McData are in the catbird seat, but users are open to buying from startups or second-tier vendors with superior products.
The beauty of the five trends I've outlined is that it's not just me waving my arms around spouting some half-baked ideas. Each trend is based on feedback ESG has received from storage consumers over the course of 2004. Users have spoken, and I'm simply the reporter.
With this in mind, I wish my friends in the storage industry a happy holiday season and a great New Year. Rest while you can; 2005 is likely to be a busy year.
This was first published in December 2004