When 2008 began, data deduplication and cloud computing were still emerging and solid-state drives (SSDs) were a pipedream for enterprise storage arrays. As the year ends, it's hard to find a storage vendor who's not pushing at least one of these technologies, if not all three.
The economy was also a big issue for storage in 2008, just like it was for the rest of the world. The only thing growing as fast as digital data is bad economic news in the form of bailouts, layoffs and slashed budgets.
2008 was also considered a transition year for connectivity technologies, such as 8 Gbps Fibre Channel (FC) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). Despite a flurry of activity in these areas, it's still early in the transition.
Here's a closer look at the biggest stories that shaped the storage world in 2008 and how they'll carry over to 2009.
Everybody's doing the dedupe dance
Data deduplication became a sizzling hot technology in 2008 when EMC Corp., Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co., IBM Corp. and NetApp all added dedupe backup products, and Dell Inc. said it would follow in early 2009. Dedupe also became a main purchasing priority for organizations looking to improve their backups. Dedupe pioneer Data Domain Inc. rode its dedupe appliances to profitability months after its 2007 IPO and bumped up its sales forecast in the face of a recession.
Meanwhile, NetApp and startups Storwize Inc. and Ocarina Networks showed dedupe and compression can work on some types of primary storage.
Considering major vendors are still new at dedupe, you can expect it to play a more major role in storage sales in 2009.
Frank Slootman, CEO at Data Domain, says only a small minority of companies have adopted dedupe and "there's a lot of runway in front of us.
"What inning is this? It's hard to know. There's no real scientific data that tells you where the saturation point is," notes Slootman. "I think in 2009 the big thing will be more adoption in the enterprise. Big data centers can't fool around with stuff that's immature, so they wait to implement new technology. I call it the late majority."
Dedupe is quickly spreading from backup to archive data but, outside of NetApp, the large storage vendors aren't offering dedupe for primary storage yet. "It's relatively limited for primary storage," says Jeffrey DiCorpo, HP's chief technologist for data protection and security. "One example of where it can be used is virtual machine deployments where there are a lot of redundancies. But for the most part, dedupe provides the biggest benefit for secondary applications where there [is] an enormous amount of redundancy in data."
SSDs appear on the enterprise storage radar
It all began in January when EMC said it would offer SSDs on its Symmetrix enterprise arrays. The move was first met with skepticism, but eventually just about every other storage vendor jumped on the bandwagon with plans to add SSDs and partner with the disk makers developing them.
But questions remain about pricing and the reliability of SSDs, although progress has been made in these areas.
"Solid state used to be 100 times more expensive than disk. Now it's only 10 times more expensive than disk with Flash," says Rich Pappas, Emulex Corp.'s vice president of business development for embedded storage. "We're starting to see it used fairly extensively on server blades for database log files and web caching. You used to have to put massive memory trays or massive amounts of memory on servers. It also lets people create different types of hybrid storage by putting SSDs on top of massive banks of SATA storage."
Storage tries to escape financial meltdown
Storage customers and vendors spent a lot of 2008 worrying about how the global economic woes would affect them, especially in the second half of the year. The concerns were about how much 2009 budgets would be trimmed, and what types of tools would remain in those reduced budgets. IT vendors slashed their workforces and resorted to other cost-cutting moves like giving staff unpaid leave late in the year; some storage companies were even left scrambling to survive.
Preparing for 8 gig, 10 gig Ethernet, and FCoE
Nearly everybody agrees these technology upgrades and consolidation plays will catch on eventually, but nobody is sure when. Upgrades to 8 Gbps FC gear aren't happening as quickly as with 4 gig switches and host bus adapters (HBAs) a few years back, mainly because customers are still happy with 4 gig and don't want to pay a stiff premium to upgrade. NAS and iSCSI vendors are eager for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) prices to drop, but that has been a slow process for storage, too.
Brocade was the busiest here, spending $2.6 billion on Ethernet switch company Foundry Networks Inc. and rolling out a new backbone switch, 8 gig FC directors and switches, and entering the HBA market. Cisco Systems Inc. bought an FCoE startup and maintains FCoE is on the cusp of widespread adoption for network consolidation, while Brocade and others say that won't happen until 2010-2011. But like SSDs, plenty of vendors are planning support for these emerging connectivity technologies.
Walking in the clouds
Online storage services have been around long enough to go through a cycle of hype, bust and rebirth. What was new in 2008 was widespread adoption of the "cloud" term, and the raft of products and services that came to light.
EMC and HP brought out well-hyped cloud storage systems, and practically every backup software vendor launched or enhanced software as a service (SaaS) offerings. Startups such as Cleversafe Inc., Nirvanix Inc. and ParaScale Inc. came out of stealth mode with cloud services or products.
"This is one of those cases where something gets a name and the perception of it rises dramatically and awareness spreads because it's been named, but it had been going on before the name came around," says Michael Callahan, chief technologist for HP's StorageWorks Enterprise NAS.
VMware, storage vendors dance warily
Storage vendors welcomed the role VMware played in getting IT admins used to virtualization, and in prompting organizations with virtual servers to implement networked storage. But some vendors became increasingly suspicious that VMware was moving into storage management and becoming a competitive threat.