If anyone decides to sit down and write a history book about the storage industry they'd probably look at 2003 as a very transitional year. At the end of 2002, IT was still reeling from what really was the lingering affects of Y2K -- and also still a bit spooked by the collapse of many technology companies' valuations. Through those internal and external factors, storage managers had to get a bit crafty with how and where they spent their storage dollars. While budgets were flat to modestly higher in '03, it was clear spending was tight and managers choose spots to buy based on need, not want. 2003 can also be remembered as the year another significant wrinkle came into play for the keepers of the data -- compliance.
Looking ahead to 2004, we can see many of these trends continuing. Here are just a few predictions as to where we'll be heading into 2005...
Low-cost storage remains high-interest:
Disk prices will continue to be being slashed, ATA disk and IP storage become more prevalent in the data center. Look for ATA to begin to have much wider penetration in the enterprise market. ISCSI starts to take small and medium businesses by storm.
The Ebay effect:
There is a dirty little secret circulating storage and much of IT for that matter...why pay full price for anything when you can get it for pennies on the dollar off EBay? One storage manager we talked to bought his Cisco 6509s off of Ebay for $14,000 -- at the time they were retailing for more than $100,000. Expect a lot more of these dealings.
Fibre Channel switches have done it, why can't HBAs? Prices for HBA will drop. Without much in the way of value adds, HBA vendors will have no choice but to lower prices. With the proliferation of iSCSI, HBAs are in trouble. Some companies are introducing iSCSI HBAs which take the cost of TCP/IP Offload Engine (TOE) cards out of the pricing equation -- which may accelerate the slashing of FC HBA prices.
Standards, where for art thou?
While strides were made to close ratification of SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification) and as much as SNIA members might couch that delays in standard-certified products are good to work out the kinks -- things are still progressing slowly. It might take a bit longer than expected in 2004 to get products certified. Members are predicting March, could be a bit later than that.
The buzz word de jour for most of 2003 puts compliance on the map, but the effects of compliance aren't felt widespread in 2004. Meetings with compliance officers will pave the way for actually instituting plans late in the year and in '05.
Last year storage saw a bunch of decent sized mergers. Expect two things. One, more mergers. Many of the startups coming into the market are prime takeover targets -- especially some of the good management companies. Keep your eye on Storability, Commvault, and Outerbay as possible targets. All have good products and might fit well elsewhere. Also, some HBA vendors might want to join forces to stave off iSCSI.
And, speaking of consolidation in the market place -- that leads us to the...
Off-the-wall prediction of the year
Cisco buys Brocade. Why develop a market when you have billions and can just buy it? Rumors have been flying about Brocade being bought -- why not Cisco? Recently, higher-ups at the company were disappointed in storage sales. Brocade has the install base, Cisco seems to be reaching lower with acquisitions like Linksys -- so why not add the whole shebang in one fell swoop?