Top 10 storage stories of 2006

SAN and NAS converged and shook up the industry, iSCSI went mission-critical, users conquered tiered storage and more.

No. 1 -- Lines blur between SAN and NAS; competition, partnerships intensify

No less than the two most fundamental categories in storage, storage area networks (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) have come together in 2006. Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) gave the trend a boost when it announced its FAS6000 series in May, and sure enough, bitter rivals EMC Corp.and NetApp were duking it out in the midrange SAN market as well by November.

Big vendors, including Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), Microsoft and Dell Inc., targeted small and midsized business (SMB) users with combination SAN/NAS systems, touted for their all-in-one management.

And where competition didn't heat up, "coopetition" got a boost as block-based giants, most notably Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), hooked up with NAS vendors to bundle file-system access into their storage offerings.

SAN, NAS converge with new NetApp releases
EMC and NetApp duke it out in the midrange
HP low-end appliance starts at $5K
Dell, Microsoft tout joint NAS product
HDS wins enterprise NAS
HDS shakes up field sales, looks to acquire BlueArc
IBM, NetApp get cozier with NAS gateway
Hitachi, BlueArc announce OEM partnership

No. 2 -- ISCSI works its way into critical systems

The year began with a battleground between Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSI, as users began to contemplate deploying IP storage. As the weeks went on, more and more case studies of iSCSI in high places -- disaster recovery plans, production systems and tiered storage architecture -- began to surface. By the fall, thanks to boosts from InfiniBand connections and high-powered servers, iSCSI even popped up where all the experts said it would never be: as the primary storage for production databases in some surprisingly large environments.

ISCSI competition heats up
Battle brews between iSCSI and FC
Financial group ditches FC SAN for iSCSI
UMich says IP SAN not just about cost
Commerce Bank rolls out iSCSI DR SAN
School upgrades with iSCSI SAN
MIT demos 1 PB IP SAN
ISCSI gets a boost from InfiniBand
ISCSI gains strength from servers
Production databases find a home on IP SANs

No. 3 -- Users conquer tiered storage

It took quite a while for tiered storage to go from vendor hype to reality, and even longer for users to apply tiered storage in the real world once "Information Lifecycle Managaement" (ILM) went from buzzword to so 2005. Though there were some bumps in the road, users who had struggled mightily with tiered storage and data migration finally found new and creative ways to implement it, and most importantly, finally began to extract value from the storage management method. Helping this trend was the advent of automated tiering within boxes from Compellent Technologies Inc., Pillar Data Systems Inc. and others in the midrange market.

Users come to grips with tiered storage
Users get mixed results tiering storage
Media firm consolidates EMC and NetApp into Pillar box
Tiered storage shifts focus away from disk
Compellent users try tiered storage automation
Tiered storage becoming tried and true
Turner Broadcast chases audience with tiered storage

No. 4 -- Disk-to-disk backup becomes mainstream; dedupe all the rage

It doesn't get much hotter than the virtual tape library (VTL) was last year. In 2006, however, disk as disk grew in appeal as backup software vendors adjusted their interfaces, and users encountered downsides to some VTLs, including inefficient use of space and difficulty managing writes to tape.

Concurrently, disk-to-disk backup got a boost from deduplication technology, which could prove one of the hottest technologies of 2007 and beyond as users see the benefit of disk-based backup and archiving but begin to worry about storage growth, power and cooling.

Law firm ditches tape as primary backup
NYC sanitation dept. taps Microsoft for cleaner backup
VTLs are on the way out, experts say
Data Domain launches dedupe array
EMC drops $165M on dedupe firm Avamar
Users add disk to backup at low cost
Symantec fires a shot across the bow of VTLs
Pharmaceutical firm puts Pillar's QoS to the test
Data Domain pushes on with deduplication
Defense agency hooks up 384 TB of disk backup

No. 5 -- Remote/branch offices become a concern

As storage grows everywhere, companies soon had to deal with the data explosion at previously modest remote sites and branch offices. The trend in 2006 was toward consolidation of data from far-flung satellite locations into the main enterprise data center for better management, compliance with regulations, security and overall consolidation. In order to achieve this, but still serve applications effectively to workers outside company headquarters, WAFS and WAN optimization technologies became the hottest technologies of the year.

Electronic Arts slashes costs with WAN optimization
Cisco sheds light on WAFS plans
Drug company fights fire with WAFS
Symantec rethinks remote office backup
3PAR adds midrange array for secondary sites
Users mull over Brocade's WAFS options
Riverbed update offers users more bandwidth, better reporting
Revamped Cisco WAFS worth the wait, users say
Compellent adds WAN optimization to array software
Ricoh tests Riverbed to repair remote office backup

No. 6 -- Archiving, e-discovery and compliance are top of mind

The U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) had the healthcare sector scrambling to catch up to its peers in other industries when it came to IT in general and storage in particular. Vendors splurged on expanding product lines to include records retention and archiving, and the news of new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which included an intriguing new provision for e-discovery, sent an unprecedented frenzy of marketing and legalese flying around the storage industry.

Healthcare users struggle with HIPAA
Symantec buys IM archiver, IMLogic
Morgan Stanley feels email archiving pain
Email storage outsourcing gets mixed reaction
Medical imaging firm picks Plasmon over EMC
Healthcare plays catch-up
CA buys MDY for records retention management
Symantec taps Dell to fix email archiving support
Updated record retention laws cause groans
Hedge funds snub SEC email archiving rule
Xiotech resurfaces with compliance focus
Users wary of Rule 37(f) data retention 'loophole'
EMC introduces data classification for files
Zantaz buys data classification partner Singlecast

No. 7-- Clustered systems make a play for mainstream NAS

Between its convergence with SAN and the many innovations that 2006 saw hit the mainstream, NAS underwent the biggest shift in the market this year -- as a concept as well as a product. As storage grows and performance demands remain high, clustered NAS systems have made their way from the labs of major research universities and NASA to the mainstream enterprise -- a trend analysts say will only continue.

Get ready for universal grid storage
Clustering newcomer shakes up scene
MySpace branches out with Isilon
Clustered storage wins mainstream fans
Clustered storage will win
Isilon adds snapshots, makes play for mainstream NAS
High-end clustering users contemplate snapshots

No. 8 -- File virtualization heats up

Another answer to NAS challenges is to add a virtualization layer on top of separate file-system boxes to simplify management as well as migration. It's another new face of NAS that heated up in the second half of 2006. This could be an even bigger story by this time next year.

Brocade spreads its wings, acquires NuView
Brocade sheds light on NuView plans
Select Comfort fixes manual data migration woes
File virtualization tops hot technology index
EMC updates Rainfinity file virtualization

No. 9 -- A flurry of storage IPOs

As recently as last year, when industry consolidation began reshaping the competitive landscape among storage vendors, the chief "exit strategy" for storage startups was to be bought by another company. But 2006 saw a sea change in that phenomenon, which was twofold: First, startups began to shake up the status quo, challenging big vendors in some big accounts; and second, building on that strength, the most successful of the bunch, including Isilon Systems Inc., Double-Take Software Inc., CommVault Systems Inc. and Riverbed Technology Inc., filed for initial public offerings (IPO). Since going public, Riverbed stock has done especially well, zooming from an initial price of $9.75 in September to hover around $35 per share by the end of the year.

McData OEMs Riverbed, propels it toward IPO
Storage Clips: CommVault files for IPO
Storage startups gain users' trust
Little guys with big chops
Storage IPOs bode well for competition
Riverbed strikes it rich in first day of trading

No. 10 -- M&A activity at a fever pitch

For the top mergers and acquisitions (M&A) stories of 2006, see our Top 10 storage acquisitions of 2006 roundup.

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