2004 SAN predictions: Programmable storage, fabric-based intelligence, SMI-S -- Part 1

SAN expert Christopher Poelker reports in with his predictions for 2004. At the top of his list is something he calls "programmable storage" and he explains how current technologies will converge to make that happen. Chris also predicts that we'll finally see some benefits from SNIA's standardization efforts, virtualization at the fabric level and SMI-S technology making storage management simpler.

Also, take a moment to go back in time and look at Chris' 2003 predictions to see how they played out.

The year of programmable storage.

Perhaps I should clarify what I mean by that. Let's start by looking back at 2003.

During 2003, companies were busy saving money by consolidating their storage and server environments. The move was toward "utility computing", with "grid computing" being an enabler to that end. Many companies took advantage of new storage technologies like 2Gbit Fibre Channel and ATA-based disk devices. Many consolidated their production applications onto larger, more fault tolerant mainframe class storage arrays. As the total amount of data grew, many companies also redesigned their storage plumbing by adding "director class" core switches so more ports could be added to grow their existing fabrics larger. To ease management and add data replication capabilities, WAN plumbing was added to connect all their current SAN islands together. Many were busy creating standards for new storage requirements and figuring out how the new regulatory requirements affected them, putting plans in place to satisfy those requirements.

During the latter part of 2003, large companies upgraded their existing SAN infrastructures to the latest generation hardware and standardized their environments by limiting the number of vendors that participate in their SANs. Using a standards approach for new storage purchases drove down overall costs, but many found it limited their ability to take advantage of new innovative technologies being delivered by small startup companies.

So what's going to happen in 2004 to solve these issues?

In 2004, we will see the beginnings of a migration to fabric-based intelligence. Packet/block level virtualization and object model data management. These "three pillars of growth" in the storage industry will enable what I am calling "programmable storage." Let's look at how the convergence of these three technologies allows this to happen:

Fabric-based intelligence

As switch vendors continue partnering with innovative startups and virtualization standards come to fruition, we will see companies start to implement the first real products for storage virtualization at the fabric level. The first products in this area are already available today in the form of application specific appliances that monitor the data flow through a fabric, and either route the data to a specific storage device, or replicate the data and route the replica to a new location for disaster recovery. Another example is multi-protocol switching, which enables SAN/NAS/and TCP/IP consolidation. In 2004, you will be able to connect to storage no matter what protocol your application happens to use. Many storage vendors are busy creating solutions that allow for SAN/NAS and multi-protocol convergence by providing intelligent solutions that include not only Fibre Channel but also NFS, CIFS, IP and iSCSI connectivity.

CLICK HERE for Part 2.

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