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Storage growth continues, creates staff shortages

Mark Lewis

LAS VEGAS -- It has been an unprecedented and tough year for the economy and the IT industry, but the storage market continues to see tremendous growth. And, according to Gartner analysts, it's showing no signs of slowing down.

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Segments that will see the greatest gains: hard disk drives, networking and storage area management (SAM). As a result, a shortage in IT staff will continue to plague growing storage departments.

"The storage market has been doubling every year and will actually have to slow down to Moore's Law by 2006," said Gartner Vice President and keynote speaker John Monroe during Gartner's PlanetStorage 2002 being held here this week. "That's still amazing growth if you think about it. It's not like any other technology I am aware of."

Monroe, who covers the enterprise hard drive space, also sees the hard drive getting stronger and faster each year. He pointed out that the hard drive is, like the industry as a whole, doubling capacity every 12 months and becoming more reliable.

Monroe says he also sees "healthy growth" in the drive market and quite possibly sees hard drives penetrating more appliances and electronics, such as gaming devices, cars, televisions and portable devices such as MP3 players.

Also poised for healthy growth is the networked storage market, said Gartner research director and analyst Bob Passmore.

Passmore noted during the opening keynote, which he shared with Monroe, that storage area networks (SAN) and networked-attached storage (NAS) are likely to take on a single moniker of fabric-attached storage (FAS) as the convergence of SAN/NAS gets underway.

Gartner is predicting SANs will take the majority of the market share, and be about a $26 to $27 billion market by 2006. In addition, the NAS space will garner about $3 to $4 billion of attention in the same time frame.

According to Passmore, the growth of networked or external storage will put a serious dent in the future of internal storage like direct-attached storage (DAS). But he noted that networked storage is not without its limitations.

"When additional capacity comes online, administrators need to back it up and secure it. The challenge here is that all of the work will have to be done with what amounts to the same staff," said Passmore.

Judging by audience response, it seemed clear that there is no end in sight for staff shortages in the storage space. Passmore asked the audience if they expected to hire more staff in the near term; only one hand went up in the sea of about 800 attendees. But the idea of a storage group within IT departments seems to be catching on. About a fourth of the attendee base raised their hands when asked if there was a dedicated storage department in their company.

Still, part of the majority was Eli Lilly's Gary Wade, whose company has not set up a storage department yet, but has three separate divisions: one for Unix, one for Windows and a mainframe division.

"If the percentages of our budget continue to go to storage, we'd have to start considering [a storage department]," said Wade.

To combat the shortage of people, Passmore predicts storage area management (SAM) will emerge as the holy grail of the storage industry. SAM is the software "promise of the future" that will automate the management of SANs. But, Passmore said storage professionals shouldn't expect to see a SAM solution for the next couple of years. He also said several vendors have claimed wins in this category, but he writes those off only as "improvements to existing software."


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