| Storage wishes for 2009
i don't usually go for end-of-the-year stuff--you know, looking back on the past year fondly (or forlornly) and mapping out plans for the new one. But I admit it's only natural to look back to see the progress we've made. It's also nice to think we can learn from recent history so we'll be better prepared for the future. This issue of Storage is all about analyzing what we've learned and, based on that data, building a set of reasonable expectations for the months ahead.
In that spirit, here's my storage wishlist for 2009. It's a mix of hopefulness, some gentle chiding and a last chance to rant before we close the books on 2008.
Green gimmickry. It was a great year for green; well, at least it was a great year for starting green consortiums. For a while, they were springing up like daffodils in April: The Green Grid, SNIA's Green Storage Initiative, Climate Savers Computing Initiative and the list goes on. For most vendors, going green meant hooking up with one or more of these industry clubs and then retooling marketing materials to recast their not-so-green products as the antidotes to global warming. They didn't actually retool the products or even come up with a reliable method of measuring their products' energy consumption. My wish for 2009: Let's get all of those green consortiums together and hammer out a common metric for measuring energy efficiency. How about some engineering that actually cuts power consumption instead of smoke and mirrors from the marketing gang? Or maybe all of the members of those green groups could unplug their computers for a day? That would save a lot of juice and eliminate tons of hot air.
Encryption phobia. What will it take to convince storage managers that all tapes and any media that leaves the premises should be encrypted? Our surveys show that less than half of storage shops are encrypting, despite the horror stories about financial companies, retail outfits, veterans' groups and plenty of others losing private data. You can't truly blame the vendors on this count; they've done their part with plenty of hardware and software encryption methods. Of course, a unified key management system would be nice, but that's icing on the cake. Storage managers have a choice: You can start encrypting now or keep walking past your tape drives with your fingers crossed.
Isolated archives. File, email and database archiving has taken off. By our reckoning, approximately 60% of companies are actively archiving at least some of their critical data. But this archiving mania has left a lot of storage managers struggling to maintain islands of archived data that have different formats and can't be searched en masse. Some vendors are on to this and have implemented things like federated searches across different types of archives. That's fine, if you're willing to use just that vendor's archivers. How about a standard format for all archived data? I'm talking about one that can be searched with a single tool and allows easy input into document management systems. Yes, SNIA's working on this with its XAM project, but no one has ever accused SNIA of moving too fast and this is a problem that gets worse every day.
Menacing maintenance. The other day, for about the umpteenth time, I heard a storage guy say his firm would probably buy a new array (at a hundred grand or more) rather than pay $30,000 or $40,000 in maintenance for older gear. Maintenance costs aren't a new ploy by vendors trying to push customers into buying newer-bigger-better arrays but, c'mon, don't you think users are wise to this not-so-cheap trick? Here's a note for the big storage vendors who ply this trade. Users are starting to look at alternatives from startups who can sell them cutting-edge technology at about the same price as your annual maintenance contract.
Getting all of that off my chest has me feeling better already. Drop me a line and tell me about your storage wishlist for 2009.