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EMC Sees SSDs, Ethernet Taking Over Data Storage

EMC (NASDAQ: EMC) Vice President and Global Marketing CTO Chuck Hollis sees solid state drives (SSDs), cloud computing and Ethernet eventually taking over the enterprise storage networking market.

Those were just some of the comments Hollis made in a wide-ranging interview in advance of the release next week of the annual EMC-IDC "Digital Universe" study.

Among the interesting facts in the report: The number of objects or files will grow faster than the overall volume of data over the next decade, growing 67 times compared to 44 for data, while storage capacity will grow only 30 times. And over that same time, the number of information professionals will only grow by a factor of 1.4, as demand will outstrip supply. That's good news for information professionals, if a challenge for CIOs, said Hollis.

The amount of data created will reach 1.2 zettabytes this year, up from 800,000 petabytes last year, and hit 35 zettabytes by 2020, or, as the report notes, a stack of DVDs halfway to Mars. And the amount of data that needs to be protected will grow too, from 30 percent of all data to 50 percent by 2020, thanks to compliance and security demands.

Hollis sees those trends creating a lot of opportunity in the data storage market, with cloud storage, SSDs and Ethernet potentially providing the answers.

"2020 isn't that far away," Hollis told Enterprise Storage Forum. "This growth is going to drive a huge amount of innovation and investment in this area."

Information is "coming in smaller and smaller buckets," Hollis said, with technologies like RFID, GPS, smart grid, texting, tweets and email driving the higher growth in objects and files.

Networked storage vendors have spent much of the last year rolling out clustered file systems and object storage systems to cope with all that unstructured data.

Hollis cites EMC's offering as a solution to the problem, the Atmos object storage system that spreads data out over "lots of nodes."

Traditional file systems and databases have their limits, Hollis said, while newer frameworks like Hadoop and Cloudera "presume billions of things from the start."

The company is expected to outline its storage networking vision in greater detail at EMC World May 10-13.

A Bright Future for Cloud Storage

The IDC report predicts that a third of all data will reside in or pass through the cloud by 2020 — and Hollis thinks that number may be conservative.

"You're going to have to hand this off to something like the cloud," he said.

Utilities, phone service and even manufacturing have gone the outsourcing route, and enterprise IT departments could meet the same fate, he said.

Asked about data security in the cloud — an issue that dates to the storage service providers of a decade ago — Hollis said the small number of companies that are really good at compliance, in industries such as financial services and healthcare, are more likely to turn over their data to the cloud because they know what they have — as long as the provider meets their governance requirements.

"You better be really good at understanding what matters and what doesn't," he said.

He also wondered about the growing gap between the amount of information and the available capacity to store it. "What are we throwing away?" he asked. "Who's in charge?"

Australia has been leading the way on cloud adoption, and is 12 to 18 months ahead of the U.S., Hollis said.

Solid State Drives Could Replace Disk

Hollis also sees a bright future for solid state drives — if they can follow the same evolutionary path as other silicon.

If flash follows the CPU market and sees the kind of performance and capacity growth and price reduction as Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) chips have seen, then flash drives could eventually become cheaper than hard drives and replace them — and perhaps even replace tape for archiving.

"It could get real interesting in four to five years," he said.

While spin down, deduplication and fast access times could make disk a promising technology for archiving, if flash becomes even cheaper than disk, it could potentially take over the archiving market too, which is currently dominated by tape.

But infrastructures are slow to change because of legacy investments. Hollis noted.

He said he is closely watching new technologies such as phase change memory and HP's (NYSE: HPQ) memristor, along with research at IBM (NYSE: IBM) and in U.S. research labs, Japan and China, for their potential as next-generation storage technologies. EMC's role with emerging technology is to "track it ... and make it useful to people," he said.

'Ethernet Wins'

Hollis also said he sees Ethernet as the storage networking technology of the future, noting that 40Gb networks can be had for $1,000 a port. "Every time, Ethernet wins," he said.

And he sees "great personal opportunities" for the information and networking professionals who can manage all that data.

The EMC-IDC report will be available May 4 at www.emc.com/digital_universe.

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