- Ellen O'Brien, Executive Editor
| 10Gb Ethernet and SAS-2, replication for DR, global dedupe, SaaS and self-healing systems will shine in 2009.
each year, a handful of storage technologies seem poised to break out of the pack and become essential building blocks for new products that make storage easier to manage, less costly and better performing. For our annual forecast, these are the five technologies we think will be hot in 2009: 10Gb Ethernet (10GbE) and 6Gb/sec SAS are less-expensive alternatives to Fibre Channel (FC) networking and storage. Remote replication for disaster recovery, while not new, is becoming the cornerstone of DR plans. Global deduplication, managing islands of dedupe and virtual tape library (VTL) appliances and sharing dedupe data among them, is a much-needed innovation for next-generation dedupe products. Storage-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings are becoming increasingly appealing in tough economic times. And self-healing systems, arrays that help cut management time and data loss, round out our list.
As we do each year, we'll cite several promising technologies that, for various reasons, will not be hot in 2009 (see "Not hot in 2009," below). Finally, we'll do a self-imposed reality check and rate the accuracy of the hot technology predictions we made last year (see "Report card on our 2008 predictions").
SAS-2 spec (6Gb/sec) and 10GbE
That means SAS should start to challenge FC for high-performance disk drives. Analysts say 6Gb/sec SAS will eventually become the new enterprise storage drive standard. "It's going to be the first time that this serial-attached SCSI interface is faster than FC," says John Rydning, research director for hard disk drives at Framingham, MA-based IDC. "We've seen a pretty rapid adoption for internal storage, and now it's going to get the attention for external storage," he says.
Doubling from its current 3Gb/sec bandwidth, 6Gb/sec SAS enables solid-state disk (SSD) adoption and compatibility with the SATA connection. In October, LSI Corp. brought out what it calls the industry's first 6Gb/sec SAS-to-SATA bridge cards and 16-port SAS storage processors.
Marty Czekalski, senior staff program manager at Seagate Technology and VP of the SCSI Trade Association board of directors, says 6Gb/sec SAS will start shipping in systems to customers about halfway through 2009.
"You're still going to have FC SANs between servers and external storage systems, but you will start to see 6Gb/sec SAS drives used on the back side of those controllers. They will replace the FC drives on the back side over time," notes Czekalski. Less cabling, doubled transfer rates, improved link utilization and rack-to-rack distances are among the advantages 6Gb/sec SAS users can expect, he says. "And 6Gb/sec SAS is a great connection for SSDs," he adds, because users can get 6Gb/sec per link, low latency and high aggregate performance.
Brad Booth, president and chairman of the board of the Ethernet Alliance, says Ethernet has progressed from a technology that would carry only LAN traffic to "a unified fabric ... iSCSI, NAS, FCoE all rely on the Ethernet," he says. Booth, who's also senior principal engineer in the office of the CTO at AMCC, says the advent of electronic dispersion compensation (EDC), used in optical and backplane platforms as a means to compensate for some of the impairments in the transmission medium, is among the most recent developments giving 10GbE technology a boost.
The biggest obstacle for 10Gb remains price, but industry analysts agree that the price of 10Gb in 2009 will drop as the technology matures. In addition, SFP+, a new optical form factor, will permit greater port density and lower the price per port.
Data replication for DR
Today's server virtualization technology, which allows the same images to run on different server types at each location, is simplifying replication for DR and lowering its cost. The "game changer" for replication in 2009, according to Stephen Foskett, director of data practice at Mountain View, CA-based consultancy Contoural Inc., is the combination of widespread server virtualization and virtual storage technology "and, most importantly, universal APIs and management systems to stitch the two together. VMware's SRM [Site Recovery Manager] is a good example of the kind of end-to-end technology that will finally allow storage replication to become a standard component of the data center," he says.
Foskett predicts new products will make it easier for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to replicate data to DR sites, and for enterprises to move data generated from remote offices to their main data center. In 2009, the bottom line is that replication for DR will become more affordable. According to Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group in Stillwater, MN, replication technology will no longer be for the "rich and famous," and will become more prevalent in organizations of all sizes.
In 2009, there'll be more users like Eric Zuspan, senior system administrator, SAN/Unix, at MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, WA. Zuspan purchased Sepaton Inc.'s S2100-ES2 Enterprise VTL with DeltaStor software for data deduplication this year in hopes of easing his reliance on tape. His shop also owns a Data Domain Inc. appliance (which is handled by the WAN team that serves all the Windows applications). What Zuspan found in Sepaton is a single appliance that has multinodes, and the ability to add more nodes if he needs extra capacity or throughput.
"This appliance gives us that kind of flexibility," says Zuspan. (Rather than using the term multinode, the Storage Networking Industry Association refers to the capability as "single deduplication domain." This means that all data delivered from any node in a system participates in the same deduplicated pool of storage.) Data Domain says it expects to support clustered nodes in 2009.
SaaS is also a way to address pricey compliance requirements and new DR mandates. New data-encryption transfer technology and tiered SaaS offerings from vendors are making it an attractive alternative in shops where security concerns kept some IT executives from considering the possibility of shipping their data offsite. Is SaaS still targeted for SMBs? Yes, but large companies are starting to seriously consider SaaS because of the requirement to back up data from a growing number of remote offices and a new awareness of the importance of backing up critical information on laptops, says Stephanie Balaouras, principal analyst at Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Research Inc.
There have been a lot of SaaS company acquisitions and repositioning recently, setting up 2009 as the year when users will have more SaaS choices. Dell Inc. made a $155 million acquisition of MessageOne Inc., and company executives say they plan to use the newly acquired SaaS technology for remote data protection and systems management. CommVault extended its managed services agreement with smaller SaaS player Incentra Solutions Inc. In September, Seagate announced i365, A Seagate Company, a new umbrella company designed to bring together the service businesses Seagate has acquired in recent years. Companies such as AmeriVault Corp., Intronis Technologies and Seagate (EVault) are all competing on things like laptop support, on-demand restores, open-file management and multiple data storage facility locations.
One caveat to this SaaS prediction is that some smaller SaaS vendors, already practically giving away their services to establish a clientele, are likely to be squeezed out of the SaaS picture as those veterans with the most clout (EMC, IBM, Iron Mountain Digital and Seagate) continue to mine this opportunity. "I see some of the hosting companies becoming pressured," says StorageIO Group's Schulz.
"The whole point of these systems is to reduce maintenance windows and to prolong technology investments," says Brian Babineau, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), Milford, MA.
In April, Atrato Inc. and Xiotech Corp. introduced storage systems with a new pledge that customers could expect years of operation without needing any service. Pitching their products as self-healing systems with sealed components containing multiple disk drives, both vendors say they avoid RAID rebuilds by copying data off a troubled drive and, depending on whether the drive has failed, replacing it and copying data back to the new or repaired drive.
These so-called no-maintenance disk arrays are designed to avoid hard-drive swapping. Self-healing systems have been getting their share of press for many years, but as storage budgets tighten, any array that cuts the amount of time storage professionals spend maintaining and fixing troubled disks is time (and money) saved that can be spent on other data protection issues.
Self-healing storage technology isn't a new concept and some storage pros will remember IBM's Shark, its TotalStorage Enterprise Storage Server with self-healing capabilities that was introduced in 2002; yet it wasn't until 2005 that IBM said the "era of self-healing technology" had arrived. And archiving systems like EMC's Centera have been billed as self-healing for years.
We may be going out on a limb with this prediction, but we're betting that a demand for quicker, more efficient rebuilds and increased pressure to provide 24/7 support for business processes will propel self-healing systems into a "must-have" feature for all storage arrays in 2009.