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Storage managers can reach for their wallets again

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While those statistics aren't staggering at this point, plans for cloud storage services in 2010 tell a different story -- one that's bound to warm the hearts of service providers.

We asked respondents which types of data they will start using cloud storage services to store in 2010, and perhaps the most significant finding is that only 43% rule out using these services this year. Among the others, 17% will use it for disaster recovery and an eye-opening 9% will look to the cloud to store primary data. Six percent will use it for remote office data, and another 5% expect to tuck some nearline data into the cloud.

Backup technologies still top of mind

Once again, survey respondents plan to reduce their dependence on tape as a backup medium. Thirty-one percent plan to decrease their use of tape for backup in 2010, which is the highest number we've seen in years (it was 29% in the spring of 2009). Over the years, however, we've seen higher decrease-tape-usage numbers in the spring surveys tempered by more moderate, and probably realistic, numbers in the fall editions of the surveys.

That said, it's the bigger and smaller companies where we see the largest segments planning a reduced role for tape. Among large companies, 36% will decrease tape use in 2010, the highest we've seen to date. For small companies, the figure is 34%, a 6-point jump from last fall and also the highest recorded in years.

Still, some respondents (26%) report

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that they'll actually increase their use of tape. But among those who plan to buy new tape libraries, the size of the libraries they've already purchased or are likely to purchase continues to shrink. Overall, the average number of slots in planned new library purchases dropped to 97, compared to 101 last year and 130 in the spring of 2008. (Higher tape drive densities also play a big part in reducing the number of slots required in a library.)

The move away from tape has been a long, drawn-out process and, if the technology is truly dying, it has taken a page out of Generalissimo Francisco Franco's book in delaying its demise. We expect the slow downward spiral will level out soon, as tape still plays an important role in many companies of all sizes: 79% still spin off some or all of their backup data to tape.

But the biggest backup story continues to be data deduplication. Forty percent of respondents hope to increase their spending on dedupe technologies in 2010. That supports the 23% who are currently using dedupe in their backup operations and the 32% who plan to add it this year.

Generally, it looks like data deduplication for backup is maturing. It's not necessarily showing the impressive jumps in implementations and spending plans as it did a couple of years ago, but rather rising steadily with fairly consistent budget allocations.

While the cloud is just getting its grip on primary data storage, it's becoming well entrenched for backup and quickly gaining the confidence and budget dollars of our respondents. Last year, between 19% and 21% were using cloud backup services for one or more applications or storage types. In the latest survey, that number jumped to 34%, a notable increase that could signal the acceptance of cloud backup among companies of all sizes. Thirty-eight percent of small businesses are using at least one of these services and 35% of big businesses are using them -- a sign that a fair number of enterprises now have faith in cloud storage.

Using cloud backup services for email and database application data ranked at the top, with both used by 18% of respondents; backing up user files or desktop/notebook files are each used by 14% of those surveyed, while 13% use these services to back up remote sites or branch offices.

Looking ahead

Each year our survey wraps up with a question that asks about intentions related to new or newer storage technologies that may not yet have market penetration. On this "What's hot/What's not" list, data deduplication holds the top spot, as it has for the last four surveys, with 76% of respondents already implementing it, planning to or actively evaluating the technology. Encryption was ranked second (65%) and has been near the top of storage managers' priority lists for some time; however, this year it looks like some of those past plans for data encryption have carried through, as 60% are using encryption somewhere in the storage infrastructure vs. 43% a couple of years ago.

As noted earlier, there's renewed interest in file virtualization; 64% have implemented it, will implement it or expect to evaluate it this year. Primary storage data reduction garnered significant interest as well, racking up 63% in its inaugural year on the list.

As storage managers set their sights on 2010 and beyond, it's clear that using their shop's storage more efficiently will be Job No. 1 for some time to come.

BIO: Rich Castagna (rcastagna@storagemagazine.com) is editorial director of the Storage Media Group.

This was first published in May 2010

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