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What the enterprise storage market looked like in 2000

SearchStorage began in-depth coverage of the enterprise storage market in 2000, when Compaq was a major player, IBM looked prescient and EMC had its first $2 billion quarter.

Nearly a generation has passed since TechTarget launched SearchStorage in 2000 during what now looks like a long-ago era in the enterprise storage market. To put it in context, VMware hadn't been invented yet and Amazon was known for selling books, not logical buckets of cloud storage.

Entering 2016, we take a glance back at what the enterprise storage market looked like at the turn of the century -- before the advent of game-changing technologies, such as all-flash storage arrays, cloud-based backup, software-defined storage and storage virtualization.

Some of 2000's ballyhooed storage technologies -- think Fibre Channel-only SANs and backup tape libraries -- survive, but have taken a back seat to emerging storage tools. Yet, 2000 did offer a brief glimpse of a new storage delivery model in the form of storage service providers (SSPs), which proved to be a forerunner to today's managed public cloud services. Innovative startups sprouted up, touting open storage systems and IP-based block storage that paved the way for cheaper, less complicated SANs. At the same time, 2000 offered hints of the looming dot-com bubble that would force some storage startups out of businesses and realign other vendors in strategic mergers.

Here's a sampling of some of 2000's notable storage storylines.

NAS-cent innovation

In 2000, NAS systems were still filtering into enterprises as a less costly alternative to Fibre Channel SANs. Sun Microsystems, which created the NFS NAS protocol, introduced its StorEdge N8000 filer family, with up to 800 GB of storage and promises of larger capacity models. Dell became a serious storage contender after it unveiled the Dell PowerVault 530F SAN and Dell PowerVault 705N NAS devices. Procom beefed up its NetForce NAS device to 730 GB, boasting it could aggregate dual Ethernet ports for automatic load balancing -- a feature now widely considered to be table stakes. NAS startup Connex's last hurrah was a higher-capacity N3000 NAS. A year later, tape vendor Quantum snapped up Connex.

German vendor Grau Data moved into the U.S. market, with a "monster of a NAS system" that scaled to 35 TB. The InfiniStore system was "about the size of a home refrigerator."

IDC predicted the NAS market would hit $5.1 billion by 2003, up from $540 million in 1998.

Storage industry learns Internet Protocol

Although iSCSI SANs were at least five years from becoming mainstream, Ethernet storage was on the radar in 2000. Vendors in the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) in 2000 collaborated to develop standards to improve the transmission of block storage across an IP network. The group contemplated standards for applications, such as storage virtualization, that may not have a unique standards platform. SNIA's resulting protocol helped spur the development of IP SANs, which allow multiple servers to access shared block storage. Many of the early storage vendors marketing IP-based block storage aren't around today, having either discontinued operations or been acquired by other vendors, although their pioneering work in storage remains.

Service providers were ahead of their time

No one talked about cloud storage in 2000, but the managed service provider concept was a hot topic.

SSPs were in vogue in the enterprise storage market of 2000, with promising newcomers and established vendors trying to set the market and turn storage into a utility model. However, SSPs proved to be a case of a good idea that arrived too soon. Within a few years, most SSPs were out of business or had shifted gears to provide other services.

StorageNetworks, which had a highly successful initial public offering in 2000, continued its busy year with advanced -- for the time -- data protection and storage management services. StorageNetworks and Vicom Systems also combined engineering resources to take a stab at storage virtualization.

But StorageNetworks' run was short. Three years after going public with a price of $90.25 per share, its stock price shriveled to $1.48 and Rocket Software bought its assets in a liquidation sale in late 2003.

Comdisco rolled out a storage services division in November 2000, lauded for its "deep pockets, a proven track record of revenues and profits, and ownership of the eighth-largest private, high-speed network in the U.S." By 2001, Comdisco faced bankruptcy reorganization and eventually sold its disaster recovery business to SunGard following a protracted federal court battle with Hewlett-Packard. SunGard spun off the Comdisco technology as its SunGard Availability Services division.

Magnetic tape still held attraction

The "tape is dead" mantra had not yet started in 2000. Fifteen years ago, vendors viewed tape media through a different lens. Quantum and Benchmark collaborated to try and make digital linear tape format an industry standard for primary storage. The American National Standards Institute approved a tape standard jointly developed by Sony, Compaq, HP and Veritas. IBM introduced its LTO Ultrium product -- the seventh generation of Ultrium hit the market in November. Disk backup was already creeping onto the scene, though, as EMC teamed with BMC Software to develop Virtual Tape and Management Solution, which enabled disk systems to appear and behave as tape.

Compaq opens coffers before merger

Compaq closed out 2000 with a pledge to invest $100 million in storage startups. Compaq's strategic vision was to speed development of open SAN systems, including storage hardware and software companies. Compaq had a history of taking stakes in promising storage startups. Some of these fizzled when the Internet bubble burst, including SSP StorageNetworks and storage software-maker HighGround Systems -- absorbed by Oracle via its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Compaq and rival IBM also forged a strategic agreement to achieve interoperability between their storage hardware and software products. But by 2001, Compaq was discussing a merger with HP that eventually would herald a combined company with assets of about $87 billion. For years after the merger, HP storage products were based on Compaq technology, as HP kept the StorageWorks brand and the Enterprise Virtual Array remained HP's flagship array until its 2010 acquisition of 3PAR.

EMC hits the $2 billion mark

EMC reported its first $2 billion revenue quarter in 2000. That was about one-third of its revenue during its final reporting period before Dell revealed plans to acquire EMC for $67 billion in 2015. EMC's 2000 sales included 96% revenue growth in enterprise storage systems. Part of EMC's revenue came from the AViiON server platform it picked up from Data General and discontinued in 2001.

EMC and HP combined on backup that would let customers use disk instead of tape.

EMC also scooped up NAS operating system vendor CrosStor Software for $300 million in 2000. CrosStor supplied OEM partners, including NetApp and HP, with NAS software.

IBM storage sees into the future

During a keynote address in August 2000, then-IBM storage group vice president Walter Raizner hinted at storage challenges associated with what we commonly refer to now as big data. Raizner claimed the Internet would signal myriad storage challenges in a short time, telling attendees to expect "storage needs to double every few months," and storage spending to "quadruple" within four years. "Information will become the most valuable asset for your company," he predicted.

IBM also added to its fledgling Shark SAN platform with Piranha and SmartPaks. Piranha was a smaller, modular version of Shark, and SmartPaks were "supported, tested, prepackaged and ready to go" precursors to today's converged infrastructure.

IBM also pledged to spend $400 million to continue momentum with Shark, which Big Blue claimed was moving into a significant number of EMC storage accounts. Shark eventually evolved into the IBM DS8000 series.

Sun Microsystems heads for HighGround

Sun Microsystems plunged into the enterprise storage market with its $400 million stock acquisition of storage resource management software company HighGround Systems. Sun boasted the move would enable it to overtake NAS stalwarts, such as EMC and NetApp, but that never happened. Eventually, Sun would push into open systems through an OEM dalliance with tape vendor StorageTek, which it later acquired before getting gobbled up by Oracle in 2010 for $7.5 billion.

Veritas tackles laptop backup

In a move that many of its customers might like to see today, Veritas moved to help deal with challenges of backing up and protecting data outside the data center with NetBackup Professional software for storage on mobile laptops. Veritas also enhanced NetBackup with granular recovery for Microsoft Exchange and enhanced snapshot technology.

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