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Hot technologies in 2004

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The following are technologies to watch out for in 2004.
Information life cycle management. This technology is emerging as the successor to hierarchical storage management and is a promising solution for meeting compliance with regulations that call for information to be stored over long periods.
Virtual SANs. This technology is already being touted by Cisco to solve the storage area network (SAN) scalability problem, along with alternatives being developed by others.
Intelligent storage networks. Somehow intelligence has to find its way to the storage network. But exactly where and how remains unresolved, although intelligence in the switch is enjoying early momentum.

SAN/NAS gateways
Networked storage remains the No. 1 hot trend and a fundamental building block of storage going forward. Networked storage has been steadily gaining ground. International Data Corp. (IDC), Framingham, MA, expects it to represent 75% of enterprise storage within a few more years. Already, it's a well-established fact--at least for large companies--that they need to consolidate their DAS. What will be popular in 2004 are new ways to network storage and the opportunities they offer to SMEs. Put it another way: It won't be just Fibre Channel (FC) anymore.

SAN/NAS gateways, which ranked high among technologies to be implemented in the Storage survey, will play an essential role in 2004 as companies attempt to simplify their networked storage environments by combining SAN, NAS and content-addressable storage (CAS) on a single network fabric. The gateways typically feature Ethernet connections on one side and FC connections on the other. Some leading vendors such as Hitachi Data Systems Inc. (HDS), IBM Corp. and Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) introduced such gateways in 2003. Analysts expect the technology to be widespread in 2004 because it addresses a clear and immediate need as it simplifies the storage environment.

iSCSI
IDC and other research firms began predicting a growth market for iSCSI in 2003. By 2004, iSCSI will have moved beyond the early adopters and into the mainstream, where it will be used with FC in large storage environments to bring storage networking into SMEs for the first time. The adoption of iSCSI by SMEs will begin in 2004, but won't become widespread until 2006.

iSCSI allows for block-level storage over common IP networks. The appeal of iSCSI comes from its ability to take advantage of the existing IP network infrastructure and IP skill sets. From switches to adapter cards to even the storage devices themselves, IP storage will save the organization money. Early adopters report saving 30%, 50% or more over the cost of the equivalent amount of FC storage. SMEs will find iSCSI especially attractive for this reason.

The publication of the iSCSI standard in 2003 triggered a flood of new iSCSI-compliant products. 2004 will see the introduction of iSCSI-compatible components from most vendors, says Robert Gray, research director, IDC. Even some of the major FC storage product vendors, such as EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and IBM, either already have iSCSI-enabled products or will in 2004. Rather than replace FC, iSCSI will coexist with FC in large data centers.

As the foundation for IP-based storage, iSCSI creates many opportunities. In addition to enabling companies to create affordable SANs using their existing IP infrastructure and skills, it allows companies to leverage existing TCP/IP network links to move large volumes of block-level stored data over long distances. TCP/IP lowers the cost of asynchronous mirroring and replication, putting it in reach of more companies and making it feasible for more uses.

Companies can use IP-based remote snapshot/replication to maintain concurrent or nearly concurrent data at remote sites for purposes of balancing workloads between multiple data centers, application development and testing or business continuity and disaster recovery. The last "will be very important in our post-Sept. 11 world," says David Hill, Aberdeen Group VP of storage research.

Storage survey respondents ranked snapshot/replication alongside SAN/NAS gateways at the top of their implementation interests. Snap/replication, when combined with inexpensive disk drives, creates even more possibilities in how organizations can handle their storage needs.

iSCSI isn't perfect, especially at this still-early stage in its evolution. For example, users must contend with considerable IP overhead. The solution is to move the IP processing into a TCP/IP offload engine (TOE), which can be built as a chip and integrated into iSCSI cards and devices. Expect more chip-level TOEs to come in 2004.

This was first published in December 2003

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