Keynote: 2005: A Storage Odyssey

EMC's CTO takes a futuristic look at storage. His prediction: Cheap communication, an exponential growth in bandwidth and nearly free storage.

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BOSTON -- For just an hour Tuesday, the storage industry was transported to 2005 as EMC's Chief Technical Officer James Rothnie's outlined his vision for the future of storage.

During the keynote address at the Enterprise Storage Strategies Conference & Expo being held here this week, Rothnie asked attendees to climb into their mental time machines to imagine a world of cheap communication, an exponential growth in bandwidth and nearly free storage.

Rothnie's economic vision of storage life roughly three years from now has megabytes of storage dropping from today's prices of about 30 to 40 cents to a penny or less. He also sees the entire storage market shipping 10,000 Petabytes (PB) of data as opposed to 200 PBs this year.

"Right now we are only seeing a ripple in the wave of storage," said Rothnie. "There are two main areas that are driving this consumption -- mass access data and individual data."

Mass data refers to movies, books and newspapers that sit in one location and that are accessed by thousands of users. Rothnie expects this will be about 10% of the future market.

Where he sees the huge growth potential and 90% of the 2005 market is in "individual data." This is data that is a "footprint" left by individuals. Rothine used an example of a user that in one year produced a terabyte of data on his own between an MRI, digital photos, e-mail, voice mail and monetary transactions -- tracked or anonymous.

The user is not necessarily storing all of the data on his own, but the "footprint" of his daily life creates the growing need for storage. Rothnie projects in 2005 there will be about 100 million such users.

If Rothnie's forecast of cheaper communication and expanding bandwidth comes to fruition he also foresees a mass consolidation of individual data in large service centers managed by large companies.

"Right now, communication is expensive causing a dispersal of data, but if communication is cheap look for a consolidation of data," said Rothnie.

Although some users in attendance still believe a dispersal of data is necessary.

"After Sept. 11, there has to be a dispersal of data. You need to have replication, redundancy, and recovery," said Lynn Basch, a consultant forthe Boston-based Sysgram, Inc.

Analysts are also concerned about the interoperability of systems if mass consolidation is to take place.

"If you are a company that is heavily in to EMC, i's not a bad thing. But, will all of the other vendors want to play?" said Arun Taneja, senior analyst at the Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group. "There may have to be an independent software vendor that puts this together."

Rothnie also delineated the three major points of EMC's product strategy. He says the company expects to spend 10-billion dollars of R&D on "exploiting storage density, revolutionizing storage connectivity and inventing a new movement in storage manageability."

For more information

The Future of Storage

Webcast: Follow the leader (Joe Tucci, EMC)

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