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Storage networking predictions for 2005: ILM has yet to arrive

Ding dong, Fibre Channel is ... far from dead actually, and with the coming storage interface enhancements (4 Gb and 10 Gb), it may be livelier than ever. This was bad news for iSCSI in 2004, says Storage Networking: LAN, WAN Performance expert Greg Schulz. Expect further technological advances both in this area and storage-over-distance, plus continued vendor consolidation and the increased adoption of multi-tiered backup technologies. Just don't bet the farm on ILM.
There are a few surprises, but many non-surprises, when it comes to predictions for storage in 2005 and what did not occur in 2004. Let's face it, the storage and storage networking industry does not really change all that fast compared to technology evolution and marketing.

Predictions that yet again did not materialize:

  1. Actual product adoption of thin-provision and auto-provisioning technology.
  2. Real adoption of intelligent fabric switches. (Expect these to arrive in 12-18 months. Deja vu.)
  3. The demise of Fibre Channel at the hands of IP storage, including iSCSI.
  4. TCP/IP offload engines (TOEs) and iSCSI acceleration card adoption.
  5. Death of magnetic tape and the mainframe.
While there has been an increase in exposure and products with the ability to auto-provision and thinly provision storage, the technology has not caught on as widely as one would have expected. However, with many additional vendors looking to add support for this storage management and allocation feature, combined with consumer confidence, it should continue to gain acceptance.

Intelligent fabric switches won't arrive for another 12-18 months. IP-based storage continuous to grow; however, the demise of Fibre Channel has been greatly exaggerated, at least for the time being. With the continued growth of IP-based storage, including iSCSI, thanks in part to Microsoft's software initiator, the TOE market remains flat at best. Many sites that have installed iSCSI-based storage solutions to the tune of 90-95% report that good performance without a TOE is good enough for their environments. The bright spot could very well be TOE benefits for traditional TCP traffic, including NAS. Tape and the mainframe are alive and well, contrary to reports, and both continue to be enhanced and deployed.

Here are my predictions for what will gain more momentum in 2005:

  1. Storage interface enhancements, including 4 Gb & 10 Gb Fibre Channel, 10 Gb Copper Ethernet, PCI-Express and Infiniband as an interconnect for blade servers.
  2. Wide Area File Services (WAFS) and storage-over-distance enhancements.
  3. Another round of vendor consolidation in the storage and networking space.
  4. Multi-tiered backup including D2D2T, D2D2O and D2D2D.
  5. Multi-vendor heterogeneous storage replication, mirroring, and data movement.
Ok, some of these are easy: 4 Gb Fibre Channel gaining ground, for example, or 10 Gb Ethernet and 10 Gb Fibre Channel support increasing. Infiniband is not dead and is doing well in the markets where it has been deployed, especially as an interconnect for blade servers, one of the roles for which it was originally intended. Wide Area File Services is an interesting and emerging technology to improve productivity, management, utilization and protection of distributed data. 2004 was rather quiet on the merger and acquisition scene after a busy 2003, so look for activity in 2005 to increase. Multi-tiered backup and data replication technologies are evolving and maturing, enabling more flexability for data protection.

What will be over-hyped in 2005:

  1. Fully integrated, do-everything management tools and ILM.
  2. Intelligent storage routers and fabric appliances.
  3. Storage Grids and Global Name/File Space.
  4. iSER and RDMA along with TCP Acceleration using 10 Gb Ethernet.
ILM and its various derivatives (DLM, SLM, xLM) will continue to be a centralized rallying point, especially for software vendors. The ironic twist is that now you can archive a vendor's sales presentation with retention software and then retrieve it during negotiations to discuss what they said they would have sometime in the past. While there should be more adoption of storage routers and switches supporting storage services, look for continued hype as reality nears. Storage grid talk will continue to increase thru 2005. Expect some customers to tell good stories, but others to ask, "Where's the beef?" With the adoption of 10 Gb continuing and more 10 Gb Ethernet adapters appearing, those with a need for speed and craving for Ethernet will have iSER/RDMA to look forward to, however they may be disappointed when they native applications fail to benefit from the technology. We will also start to hear more about Service Oriented Architecture, which will mean virtually anything from a grid to a QoS function on a virtual switch for storage virtualization. While more and more non-vendors will actual attend more storage conference and events, there are also more events to attend meaning that the CAGR of users to vendors at events should improve slightly. One thing is for sure and that is change as change is constant and history has a way of repeating itself.

About the author: Greg Schulz is a senior analyst with the independent storage analysis firm, The Evaluator Group Inc. Greg has 25 years of IT experience as a consultant, end user, storage and storage networking vendor, and industry analyst. Greg has worked with Unix, Windows, IBM Mainframe, OpenVMS and other hardware/software environments. In addition to being an analyst, Greg is also the author and illustrator of "Resilient Storage Networks", Greg has contributed material to Storage Magazine. Greg holds both a computer science and software engineering degree from the University of St. Thomas.

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