Hot technologies for 2006

Storage's editors considered a wide range of technologies before settling on the five that we feel will be the hottest storage technologies for 2006. Among the many technologies available to storage shops, we see e-mail archiving, midrange arrays, virtual tape and disk-based backup, SAS/SATA drives and remote office support emerging as the technologies that will be most in demand next year.

E-mail archiving, midrange arrays, virtual tape and disk-based backup, SAS/SATA drives and remote office support are the technologies that will be most in demand next year.

The editors of Storage considered a wide range of technologies, from sexy products like flash memory and holographic storage to workhorses like midrange arrays, when narrowing the list of what we feel will be the hot storage technologies for 2006. Subsequent discussions with analysts and IT managers confirmed our final choices. In this assessment, "hot" means those products IT organizations are most likely to need and will seriously consider in the coming year.

Scorecard: How our 2005 predictions fared
Last year Storage identified continuous data protection (CDP), intelligent switches, NAS accelerators, storage encryption and virtualization as the hot technologies to watch in 2005. How accurate were our predictions?

CDP. Some startup companies are still trying to gain traction, but the technology is being incorporated into mainstream products, such as Microsoft Corp.'s Data Protection Manager (DPM) for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Storage Server 2003. We may have been a bit ahead of the adoption curve on our prediction that CDP would be hot in 2005.

Intelligent Switches. Brocade Communications Systems Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and McData Corp. now offer switches capable of running sophisticated virtualization software or incorporating blades dedicated to virtualization and data migration.

NAS Accelerators. Boasting 17% growth last year, according to research firm IDC, and more than doubling the growth rate of storage systems, NAS was hot. We expect this trend to continue.

Storage Encryption. Last year we said encryption would be hot, although we felt it might be a hard sell. But high-profile security slip-ups have propelled encryption to the top of everyone's must-have list.

Virtualization. Every major storage vendor enhanced or introduced storage virtualization products in 2005, making it the year when virtualization hype turned into real, deployable products. But because virtualization technologies have the potential to lock users into specific vendors' products, users are implementing virtualization slowly and cautiously.
Serial-attached SCSI (SAS) and serial ATA (SATA) disk technology underwent long-overdue, major upgrades over the past year. Next year, these technologies will figure prominently in almost every disk buying decision. Remote replication and virtual tape libraries (VTLs) have been around for a while. In 2006, they'll attract renewed attention as backup and disaster recovery move to the forefront in the wake of a flurry of devastating natural disasters. And the midrange array, which has been an essential storage option for years, will become an even more popular alternative in 2006. This will occur as a result of the combined influences of vendors pushing down market by adding capabilities and cutting costs, and information lifecycle management, which is driving organizations to set up tiers of storage to make the most cost-effective use of their storage investments.

We also expect WAN accelerators, remote vaulting and remote office technologies—which have been hovering on the periphery of the industry for several years—to gain prominence as organizations look to simplify their storage environments by reining in satellite offices. E-mail archiving, which seemingly came out of the blue following a huge fine levied against Morgan Stanley for failing to deliver documents requested by the court, may become the hottest of the hot storage technologies in 2006. Panicked corporate executives willing to spend whatever it takes to avoid a similar fate in our increasingly litigious business environment will propel the rush to archive e-mail.

The path from hype to hot is a slippery slope, strewn with technologies that, for one reason or another, never reached the hot, must-have plateau. Storage expects the following technologies to make the perilous transition from hype to hot in 2006.

E-mail archiving
E-mail archiving is the process of indexing and storing e-mail messages and their attachments in a way that makes it easy to search and retrieve a particular message or group of messages addressing a given topic. Companies previously relied on an informal process by which users would set up folders in Microsoft Exchange or other messaging systems. If the organization was pressed to undertake a more comprehensive search as part of a compliance or litigation effort, it would rely on its backup tapes.

This approach is no longer sufficient. "There have been numerous incidents where companies have had to produce all the messages relating to a certain subject, usually having to do with compliance or litigation," says Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner, Data Mobility Group, Nashua, NH. "They end up going through backup tapes, which is cumbersome and expensive."

And you don't have to be a giant financial services firm to worry about e-mail archiving. Liberty Medical Supply Inc., Port St. Lucie, FL, which provides diabetes testing supplies, gets requests for e-mail searches each year. It turned to iLumin Software Services Inc.—recently acquired by Computer Associates (CA) International Inc.—which creates a repository for e-mail archiving. When it comes to searching e-mail messages, "having a repository of Outlook messages is a godsend vs. having to try to do it from backup tapes," says John Hegner, vice president of technology services at Liberty Medical Supply.

The repository avoids the problem that tripped up Morgan Stanley—an inability to produce a message that was known to exist. "If you have a repository, you capture every e-mail message sent to or from anywhere. It's all preserved and saved," Hegner explains. Liberty Medical maintains a 1TB e-mail archive to support 1,000 mailboxes in Exchange and Outlook.

E-mail archiving tools collect, index, store and search e-mail messages. Young firms like C2C Systems and Mimosa Systems, among others, have introduced e-mail search and archiving products that augment the capabilities of Microsoft Exchange.

Another sign of just how hot this market is becoming is the interest shown by large vendors. "You have vendors like CA, IBM and Veritas [now Symantec] acquiring and introducing e-mail archiving products," says Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, Boulder, CO.

The legal industry and corporate legal departments have jumped on the issue of e-mail archiving as part of electronic data discovery (EDD). EDD tools, a subset of the e-mail archiving market, essentially consist of e-mail indexing combined with searching capabilities and integration with litigation systems. EDD vendors include Attenex Corp., Dataflight Software Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Zantaz Inc., which offers electronic discovery in conjunction with its e-mail archiving application. The latest Socha-Gelbmann Electronic Discovery Survey, from St. Paul, MN-based Socha Consulting LLC, pegs the 2004 EDD market at $832 million, up 94% from the year before. Researchers expect the legal EDD market to continue to increase, hitting $1.9 billion in 2006 and $2.8 billion in 2007. In the current era of compliance and litigation, Storage expects demand for e-mail archiving technologies to only increase.

Remote office support
Remote data technologies include products and services such as remote replication, WAN accelerators and remote vaulting. These tools and services, from vendors like Asigra Inc., Riverbed Technology Inc. and Softek Storage Solutions Corp., help organizations to move data between geographically separate locations.

Large companies are recognizing the need to streamline and centralize data management and storage functions performed at satellite locations. There's also a need to maintain copies of data at separate locations for disaster recovery purposes. In addition, small- and mid-sized organizations, especially those with limited IT resources, are turning to these technologies, which are often packaged as simple appliances.

"We expect WAN file services, network accelerators and remote vaulting to all get bigger in 2006," says Greg Schulz, senior analyst at Evaluator Group Inc., Greenwood Village, CO. These technologies simplify and speed the process of getting stored data from remote locations across the network to a central site, where the data can be stored, managed and backed up.

Millard Lumber Inc., Omaha, NE, is a building materials distributor with six remote locations across the Midwest. Its Unix-based ERP system and Windows networks are operated from the Omaha headquarters and connect via 256K Frame Relay links to production work occurring at the remote sites. The problem? "We have no IT staff in the remote locations," says Joel Russell, Millard Lumber's vice president of special projects.

The firm deployed Riverbed Technology's Steelhead WAN accelerator appliances, one in each office. Costing approximately $20,000 each, the appliances capture and compress data at each office and send it to headquarters where it's stored and backed up. "Users don't notice a thing," says Russell. "In fact, they think access through Riverbed is even faster than before."

The biggest hurdle in the adoption of these technologies is bandwidth. "If you're limited to low-speed links, remote replication might be a problem," Karp notes. But products that provide compression and network acceleration can overcome even that.

SAS/SATA
The disk drive buried deep inside the storage array has suddenly become a hot technology. As SAS and SATA drives double their speeds—the first steps on road-maps that will take them to 10Gb/sec and beyond—disks are taking on new tasks in the backup process.

"The new SAS and SATA drives will change key storage dynamics, particularly in backup and recovery," says Arun Taneja, founder and consulting an-alyst at Taneja Group, Hopkinton, MA. For example, low-cost, high-performance SATA drives make disk-based backup practical on a widespread basis for the first time. Previously, disk-based backup was reserved for only the most critical databases.

The compatibility between the new SAS and 3Gb/sec SATA II drives—SATA drives can plug into the SAS backplane—will also open up new opportunities for tiered storage, says Dave Reinsel, program director, storage research at IDC, Framingham, MA. Within the same array, companies can mix higher cost, higher performance SAS drives and lower cost, lower performance SATA drives. "Large organizations will keep the different tiers of storage on different boxes, but smaller organizations don't want a bunch of boxes," adds Reinsel. This will allow them to get two tiers in one box.

Evans & Sutherland Computer Corp., Salt Lake City, which produces systems for planetarium displays, purchased 7TB of SATA disk from BlueArc Corp. "We keep originals of our shows online. This is read-only data, and the files get very large," says Melinda Orms, Evans & Sutherland's system administrator. The firm has a Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. SAN with 26TB of storage built around an EVA5000 loaded with high-performance Fibre Channel (FC) drives for production work. For the read-only files, it turned to SATA "because [it] lets us get a lot of disk for less money," Orms notes.

Storage expects 3Gb/sec SATA II drives to become the standard for low-cost, second-tier storage and disk-based backup. SAS will go wherever organizations use parallel SCSI today. Still to be seen is whether SAS, which brings enterprise-class features like dual porting and full duplex mode, will cut into the use of FC drives.

Virtual tape and disk-based backup
The new SATA drives are also spurring interest in virtual tape and disk-based backup. Although tape continues to be cheaper, falling disk prices have brought the industry to the tipping point, making disk a viable backup option.

VTLs, which work with the existing tape backup software but use low-cost disk rather than tape for storage, are growing in popularity as vendors rush products to market. EMC Corp., HP, IBM Corp. and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek, now owned by Sun) now offer VTLs, and most backup storage software vendors support virtual tape configurations. "We're seeing the VTL segment getting quite crowded, and we're expecting the number of implementations to increase in 2006," says Data Mobility Group's McAdam.

The slow speed of tape drove Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC, to add VTL to its backup process. "It was taking us two hours to do the nightly backup using tape," recalls Bob Massengill, manager of technical services. While backing up the system each night, the 24/7 medical center was forced to revert to a cumbersome manual procedure for inevitable late-night admissions. "We either had to buy more tape drives or go to virtual tape," he says.

The medical center opted for virtual tape from StorageTek. Virtual tape turned out to be less costly than buying more tape silos, and delivered benefits that proved its real value. "It reduced our backup time to just seven minutes," Massengill reports. In addition, it eliminated the need for two operators to continually mount and handle tapes, freeing them for other tasks. The medical center still backs up to tape for offsite archiving, but can do so without disrupting online operations.

Storage expects more companies to opt for disk-based backup for its speed and reliability. We don't expect VTL to replace tape, however. Instead, as Massengill found, tape will continue to be used for offsite archiving.

Midrange arrays
EMC, HDS, HP and IBM have long offered midrange storage arrays. So why do we think midrange arrays will become hot stuff in 2006? Simply put: The cost keeps getting lower, and the products keep getting better.

"In the past when you bought a midrange array, all you got was disk. Now vendors are adding many of the same advanced features they offer on their high-end storage," says McAdam. The midrange will rival the top end in features, although not in scalability, and at a much lower price. Many products will sport FC disk, and some will come with a mixture of SAS and SATA and offer sophisticated replication, mirroring and management.

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago turned to midrange storage when it moved from distributed DAS to a centralized SAN to streamline storage administration and provide for future scalability. It initially chose HP's EVA3000 midrange array, and later upgraded to the EVA5000 with 35TB of storage. "We could have used more, but we bought as much as we could afford,'' says Ron Hunsberger, director of information technology.

Advanced features, as much as price, led the school to the midrange. "We have a small staff. We wanted the technology to supplement the staff," Hunsberger says. The staff particularly likes the EVA's storage management. "We use it to add, subtract, group and ungroup the drives. It's easy to see how things are running," says Craig Hamill, Rosalind Franklin's system manager.

Hot—but practical
The hot technologies for 2006 promise to solve the problems companies have wrestled with for years. Virtual tape and disk-based backup using low-cost SATA disks will help enterprises to achieve consistently reliable backup and recovery, and accomplish it within acceptable backup windows. The various remote replication and acceleration technologies will go a long way in decreasing the difficulty of supporting remote workers and protecting remote office data without having to dispatch IT troops to the hinterlands. And the new e-mail archiving technologies are sure to give storage administrators the tools to find e-mail-specific threads in a hurry. Storage expects these technologies to be firmly entrenched within companies next year.

This was first published in December 2005

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