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TheInfoPro and Forrester say cloud storage is way overrated

This will come as no surprise to many of you, some of whom I may have interviewed for my cloud storage feature published this month: two new analyst research reports show that despite the hype around cloud storage, its actual uptake among enterprise users has been minimal.

According to TheInfoPro’s Wave 13 survey of 309 Fortune 1000 and midsize enterprise storage professionals between August and November of last year, cloud storage showed up at the bottom of the list of technologies storage pros cited as likely to change their storage architecture in the next year.

TIP managing director Robert Stevenson, speaking in an audio slideshow showing Wave 13 highlights on TIP’s website, said that “Storage clouds…which [are] incredibly hyped in the enterprise, marketing and press, [are] really fairly low on the list of what storage pros think will change their storage architecture.” Storage clouds garnered about 5% of the responses in this category, putting it alongside file virtualization, enterprise SAS, 16 Gbps FC, and 10 GbE Storage at the bottom of TIP’s chart. Virtual tape libraries, SSD and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) rank above “storage clouds” on the list.

Also this week, Forrester Research analyst Andrew Reichman published a report titled “Business Users are Not Ready for Cloud Storage.” According to the report, based on the results of Forrester’s Enterprise And SMB Hardware Survey, North America And Europe, conducted in the third quarter last year, users are well aware of the cloud storage concept, “reflecting the buzz in the market.”

However, whether those users had interest in deploying the concept anytime soon was an entirely different matter. Of the 1,272 decision-makers surveyed, 43% said they were “simply not interested” while another 43% said they were interested but had no immediate plans to move forward with cloud storage.

“Respondents in all geographies and of all company sizes appear to have little interest in moving their data to the cloud any time soon,” the report concludes. “There is long-term potential for storage-as-a-service, but Forrester sees issues with guaranteed service levels, security, chain of custody, shared tenancy, and long-term pricing as significant barriers that still need to be addressed before it takes off in any meaningful way.”

So what DO the analysts see as the hot topic in 2010? According to TIP, data deduplication is far and away the hottest technology for the year so far, with about 40% of respondents saying they expect it to impact their storage architecture. Block virtualization, thin provisioning and server virtualization follow with between 20 and 30 percent of responses for each of those technologies.

TIP also sees IT spending on SAN and NAS storage making a recovery this year, with NAS leading the way at 33% projected growth. “Block storage will start to show a turnaround later in the year,” said Stevenson. “It takes longer for database teams to talk to server teams and for server teams to talk to storage professionals [about what they need].”

Still, as we’ve heard CEOs like EMC’s Joe Tucci say, things aren’t getting back to 2007 levels anytime soon. The Wave 13 survey showed a continued reduction in the number of dialogues within organizations that are focused on business expansion, a pattern Stevenson said has been consistent for the last 18 months or so. Instead, key initiatives remain focused more narrowly on infrastructure-related issues like disaster recovery, archiving and regulatory compliance.

Among the vendors garnering the “exciting” label from respondents in the Wave 13 survey were EMC, which Stevenson said got a big jump with its acquisition of Data Domain; IBM, whose “excitement index” is up almost 100% over 2008 levels among Fortune 1000 respondents; HDS with its dynamic provisioning; and NetApp and Compellent, which caught the most attention in the midrange. Other vendors mentioned include 3PAR and primary storage capacity optimization vendors GreenBytes, Ocarina and StorWize.

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