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Storage Decisions 2001: Storage buyers regain control

Kevin Komiega

CHICAGO -- A panel of industry analysts, technical experts and financial pundits assembled Thursday Storage Decisions 2001 agree that for the first time, the customer has an opportunity to gain control over the vendor when buying storage.

"The balance of power has shifted dramatically from the vendor to the user," said Merrill Lynch analyst James Berlino.

Storage is notorious for being overbought, and in the past it has been easier for companies to throw money at their storage problems rather than to fix what they already have, according to the panelists. But with the tight economy forcing chief financial officers to reassess budgets, the storage vendors are competing like never before. That translates into lower prices.

"When the economy hit the skids, CFOs started to look at squeezing more out of what they had," said Enterprise Storage Group Founder and analyst Steve Duplessie. "They asked themselves, 'Do we really need to buy this or do we already have it?' "

Tighter belts and the inability to buy a new box every time there's a storage problem has led to an attempt to improve utilization rates of what already exists in the company's infrastructure.

"(This environment) drives a services shift," storage expert Marc Staimer said. Vendors are going to have to show a return on investment, according to Staimer. Vendors need to prove that what you buy today will improve productivity and improve your bottom line, he said.

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Duplessie said control has been wrestled back to the user like it was in the PC market.

"Now, when you buy a PC you buy it from the company that you want services from, because all PCs are the same," he said.

The experts believe that the storage industry is experiencing the inevitable maturation that every technology experiences; a maturation that creates a whole new set of opportunities in storage management software.

"While vendors are being beaten down right now there's an opportunity for someone to (capitalize on creating) an operating platform," said Berlino.

He added that vendors are starting to realize that users really need management tools. A trend evidenced by a major reorganization toward software by many vendors.

"With the eventual need for one person to manage a petabyte we're going to be left with a situation where there's a lot of unmanaged data," said Staimer. "Management tools will quickly come to the forefront."

The next generation in management tools, said the panelists, has to reside in an abstraction layer or a "cloud" off of the host.

"A storage management product will only succeed if its hardware independent," said Duplessie

A change in leadership may be on the horizon as well. When any technology undergoes a major shift like the one the storage industry is currently experiencing, the leader of the pack almost never remains on top, according to Staimer.


Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

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