Don't get burnt in the fire sale

Don't get burnt in the fire sale

The storage industry is at a crossroads. The road least likely to be taken is "business as usual," if the deep discounts you've been extracting from vendors are any indication. The road most of you seem bent on taking is "solid stuff for a lot less." Can the industry provide that?

EMC, dominant for so long, has had to drop prices dramatically, and still, has been much more successful in recent months with its midrange Clariion line than flagship Symmetrix. We've reported that some users are passing up IBM's Shark in favor of the firm's faster, cheaper FAStT line (made by LSI Logic). And the story's the same all over.

Sure, the economy is awful. But more to the point, the storage industry is emerging from a minicomputer-like world: proprietary gear, closed software, expensive service contracts. Many forces are cracking that model.

You now have the chance to pick and choose products and vendors who can deliver stuff that makes solid technical sense without burning your budget down. You also have the chance to buy stuff that makes economic sense without swinging wildly to the other extreme: technology that's cheap but unmanageable.

But spreading the disciplines of the data center across the entire enterprise doesn't require using absolutely the most industrial strength - and expensive - technology. In fact, just the opposite is the case: Without appropriately priced technology, managed storage will stay a fraction of all storage, to everyone's detriment.

The most critical jobs still cry out for high-end technology. But iSCSI, management appliances, more exploitation of commodity components, more capable software - these are the kinds of tools that will spread the benefits of storage networking from the most critical transactional applications to the rest of your application portfolio.

And just in time (we hope). As you read our cover story, you'll find that some of your colleagues are already wrestling with massive storage environments, adding terabytes weekly or daily. The fascinating thing is they are doing it - for the most part - without any magic wands, secret sauce or black boxes. They use exactly the same kind of technology you use.

Where they are ahead of the pack is in their ability to mix and match tools to apply the right technology to the right job. Once, IT departments believed they could standardize on a single operating system, although probably no one under 40 remembers those days. Many multiterabyte pioneers have come to the realization that there's no one storage technology that can fit all their needs, either. Don't confuse building a storage utility with creating a uniform infrastructure.

Storage vendors take note: We're not just in a multivendor world now. We're also moving away from single architectures as the solution, to a world where storage managers will pick and choose multiple architectures that have the features and functions - and the price points - that make the most sense for them. What a concept.

Kudos due. Congratulations to Steve Duplessie for being named one of the top 20 most influential analysts by Adweek, and the only storage specialist among them. Check out his Storage Bin column in every issue.

This was first published in July 2002
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