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2004 storage management predictions: It's time for SM software to deliver

Norbert Haag takes a look into the future of storage management and sees SMI-S going full speed ahead, users and vendors still clashing on interoperability issues and the need for software products to deliver.

SMI-S/standards: What development in storage management standards will we see in 2004? Will certified products be brought to market and bought?

Taking into account last year's experiences concerning the development of standards doesn't make the achievements we might see in 2004 look too shiny. However, SMI-S is on its way and even if we saw another delay in late 2003, it will be a major step towards more interoperability and transparency.

The question whether certified products will be bought is easy to answer. If the standard this certification is based on allows for interoperability on a broad scale, such products would be appreciated by almost every potential customer and bought accordingly.

Interoperability: Will it get better in 2004?

Interoperability will stay in an area where customer needs and "supposed" vendor needs clash. As vendors strive to differentiate their products and make them unique and different from their competition, interoperability is certainly among those topics that do not go well with this attempt.

Customers look for interoperability to have the freedom of choice, vendors look for interoperability to gain market share. Anyway, pressure for more interoperability will continue and eventually force vendors to increase the interoperability of their products.

To be fair to the vendors though, it should be said that interoperability in an open systems environment comes with a big price tag for the vendor on it. The sheer amount of possible connections between systems, components, applications and the like requires a huge effort in testing all possible configurations that most vendors are not capable of meeting. And, even if they are capable doing so, the cost of testing and certifying even the most common configurations needs to be reflected in the price. And, as prices -- especially in hardware -- continue to drop at an ever-increasing pace, vendors certainly don't like to add any additional costs because it cuts away even more of the ever decreasing margins.

Will the buzzwords start to payoff for managers? Virtualization? Automation? Provisioning? Which of these makes the greatest steps forward in 2004?

The storage industry certainly has made huge steps towards easing the operating processes. Virtualization, automation and provisioning are capabilities customers really can implement today. However, there is a gap between what the industry can offer as tools to streamline operations and what most customers still have to achieve in their attempt to reorganize their storage environments. Companies are still in the phase of building storage practices, developing strategies and getting a handle on their "Growing environment."

Virtualization, automation and provisioning require well-defined processes and clarity about the goals and to achieve them before they can be used efficiently. Or, else the premium natural law of every process will apply -- GIGO (garbage in garbage out). But, once companies have defined their visions and goals, processes and procedures like virtualization, automation and provisioning will add tremendous efficiency effects to the operation of storage environments.


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