Hot technologies in 2004


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The following technologies look promising, but 2004 will not be their year.
Serial SCSI: Early products may be introduced late in 2004, but this is shaping up for 2005 and beyond.
Stored data encryption: This is happening in selected instances today, but widespread encryption of stored data will not happen in 2004--if ever.
Infiniband: Although it offers some interesting possibilities for storage, InfiniBand is regarded mainly as a high-performance server and clustering technology, and it's unlikely it will make much headway in the storage world in 2004.
10 Gigabit storage networking: 10GbE will remain too expensive in 2004; 10GbE Fibre Channel is plagued by the problems of backward compatibility and its high cost.

ATA drives, formerly known as IDE drives, are the low-cost, high-capacity drives used with desktop PCs. They're now being loaded into storage cabinets to create large, inexpensive pools of storage, which can take the form of JBOD or RAID. SATA drew nearly as much interest in terms of implementation and evaluation as SAN/NAS gateways and snapshot replication in the Storage survey.

SATA specifies a new serial interface to the standard ATA drive, featuring a parallel interface connected with a short, wide-ribbon cable. SATA also uses the serial interface, which connects to a slim, round, flexible cable that allows for distances up to one meter--double the distance for an ATA drive. SATA drives use the same internal components as ATA drives, but they support hot-swapping of drives, and ATA doesn't.

Disk subsystem vendors--especially midrange vendors--are using ATA drives to build large, inexpensive disk arrays. Some vendors, such as EMC, are combining ATA and conventional server-class SCSI drives in the same storage system. The industry, led by Dell Computer Corp., is expected to make the widespread transition to SATA in 2004.

SATA will mean flexible, robust arrays of low-cost disk with such enterprise capabilities as hot swapping. The SATA disk arrays will be used for enterprise storage characterized by light-duty cycles vs. heavy-duty production transaction applications demanding nearly continuous reading and writing. Lightweight duty situations include bulk storage, nonproduction applications, backup, archiving, content serving and decision support applications.

"To me, it is just cheap disk," says Steve Gray, IT systems manager at Phoenix Newspapers Inc., Phoenix, AZ, which already makes extensive use of ATA drives in its data center. Arrays of SATA drives will become key to a variety of data backup and fast recovery techniques. Instead of backing up directly to tape, storage admins can now backup from costly SCSI disk to affordable SATA disks, and then to tape for archival purposes. SATA will enable an entirely new class of storage, dubbed midline or nearline storage. The combination of snapshot/replication and SATA will allow organizations to move less-critical data from expensive enterprise storage systems to low-cost midline storage.

Server-class SCSI disk drives, however, will continue to be used for heavy-duty enterprise applications. Organizations will mix SATA and SCSI in their enterprise storage as they establish tiers of storage consisting of first-line primary production storage, midline secondary storage and storage for archiving and backup. SATA arrays will also prove useful, analysts say, for protecting data by offering low-cost mirroring of primary storage.

For many organizations, storage management consists mainly of automating tape backup. The long-term storage management trend, however, is toward increasingly broad management, automation and provisioning. SRM--which addresses storage inventory and reporting--has emerged as the baseline for advanced storage management and will become widely adapted in 2004, according to Bill North, IDC's senior storage software analyst. But SRM is just the building block upon which more capabilities must be added if companies hope to control increasingly complex physical and logical storage environments. "Companies need management and automation to deal with all this complexity," he says.

Provisioning is the first function to build on SRM and will pick up steam in 2004. Fully automated provisioning, policy-based storage automation and heterogeneous storage management, however, are further out, adds North. This was confirmed in Storage's survey in which automated provisioning ranked low in terms of current implementation interest.

These building-block technologies will work their way into the storage environment. They're being built into the products of leading storage vendors and are appearing as appliances and devices provided by third parties.

All organizations don't evolve their storage at the same pace. "Many companies only just now are seeing the value of SAN," says Steve Kenniston, analyst, Enterprise Storage Group. Those companies will find iSCSI or SAN/NAS gateways to be exactly the building blocks they need to start networking their storage. Others are awaiting SMI-S management tools to begin deploying sophisticated, automated enterprise management. Wherever your organization is today and regardless of its size, some combination of these technology building blocks will likely play an important role in 2004.

This was first published in December 2003

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