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The coming year is shaping up as a tight year, to say the least. Even if you may have to keep your wallet in your pocket, you'll want to keep your eyes open this year. After speaking with various vendors and analysts, I'm expecting more opportunities on the technology front that can bring some quick relief and set you up for the future as well. Here are some slightly clever things I'm expecting to become real this year:

Easier ways to leverage your storage area network (SAN) for file storage. As unglamorous as end-user storage is, you're probably spending loads of time and money servicing it. If your SANs are production-ready, you may be able to save both time and money (in backup, for example) by leveraging them for end-user home directories and the like.

This year, you'll have a number of reasonable ways to bridge the file and block worlds. NAS gateways, Windows fileserver consolidation and working iSCSI technology offer different approaches for different needs.

More unified SAN management. How many IT guys does it take to change a LUN? Five - one to request new storage, one to create the LUN, one to zone it at the switch, one to configure the volume manager at the server and one DBA to complain that it's not a good enough LUN.

You're not laughing? Maybe it's because you actually had to go through something like that. Don't expect it all to go away, but look for progress this year as management tools begin to cross the no man's lands between server, switch

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and array and actually coordinate provisioning. Even if you neither want nor buy all the hype about auto provisioning, you'll have some opportunities to improve your service levels while simplifying administration, courtesy of these new tools.

Tiered storage. Up until now, you've had to buy a cabinet of essentially identical disk drives, cache and controllers, whether all of the servers connected to it needed it or not. Aside from choosing the drive size and speed, it's all SCSI, or all Fibre Channel or all ATA, and that can lead to waste or inefficiency. At least two developments will change that in the near future: serial storage and more modular (even modular monolithic!) storage.

After a brutal sales year, many vendors have gotten the message that pragmatism rules. The coming year may actually be a good time to buy smart, if selectively.

This was first published in January 2003

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