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Three analysts took us up on the offer — Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at the Taneja Group; John Webster, founder and senior analyst at Data Mobility Group; and Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group.
The three agreed on the importance of information lifecycle management (ILM), regulatory compliance, and disaster recovery, even though they may differ on how the storage market will address those issues. They also offered other views into the year that was and the year that will be.
So without further ado...
ILM Needs Specifics, Not Hype
If there is one area of broad agreement, it's that ILM is a concept that is in danger of being overhyped.
"Everyone claimed that they have an ILM strategy in 2003," says Taneja. "Another concept that will go through the hype and baloney. The concept is simple. Everyone will do it. It will become like virtualization. No one buys virtualization because it is not a product. Similarly, no one will buy ILM — it is not a product. But vendors will push it like it was."
In 2004, Taneja predicts, "Customers will see ILM for what it is — using the right platform to process, move, and protect data, based upon its value to the company."
"By focusing on the big end-to-end ILM picture, vendors are giving users the impression that they have to buy into some huge software/hardware solutions and spend as much money as they would on an ERP system to get ILM," says Marrone-Hurley. "It's not as complicated as some vendors would make it seem ... There are a number of solutions available today that can meet ILM requirements, which will differ for each organization."
"Hopefully," Marrone-Hurley continues, "the vendors will get more specific and help users understand what their ILM needs truly are, and will help guide users to solutions that will meet these needs."
Webster warns that ILM "is somewhat in danger of becoming another virtualization," which became "so overhyped" that it created confusion, and vendors began to back away from virtualization and instead started to talk about intelligence in the fabric.
"Those from mainframe environments and familiar with HSM (hierarchical storage management) get it right away," Webster says, while those new to the ILM concept see it as "just another excuse for vendors to sell stuff."
While ILM's future is uncertain, Webster predicts that virtualization will make a comeback in 2004, led by EMC's recent acquisition of VMware.
Compliance with new laws and regulations requiring records retention and archiving, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, and SEC regulations, will be important in 2004, analysts say.
Webster sees 2004 as "crunch time" for companies that will come under those laws and regulations.
"I think people will conclude that they can't get their ducks in a row in time," he says, creating a "big outsourcing opportunity." Companies that benefit from this trend will be big accounting firms offering compliance services, and outsourcing firms like EDS and IBM, Webster says.
Taneja sees compliances as a big driver of storage purchases early in 2004, with improved business activity boosting sales later in the year.
"Compliance is important," agrees Marrone-Hurley. "What is big these days is the recognition that something needs to be done about it, and we should applaud the industry for getting that message out .... We are definitely seeing solutions that address compliance getting traction, and think this will be a big market in the coming years."
Data Protection and Disaster Recovery
While there is strong agreement on ILM and compliance, analysts are less sure about what will happen to disaster recovery and business continuity in 2004.
The issue was a big one in 2003, thanks to virus attacks and blackouts, but Webster thinks that may not have been enough to spur widespread adoption of DR technology.
"IT administrators want to do it, but senior executives don't see a need for it — unless there's a disaster of some type that forces people to say 'we need to do something like this,'" Webster says.
Virus attacks haven't done enough damage, and executives have a tendency to wait until they have to do something before spending money on it, he adds.
"Cost savings sells," says Webster, but disaster preparedness is a much tougher sell. "If the economy turns around significantly, people may find the money in their budget to do this, but it's a tough sell," he concludes.
Taneja and Marrone-Hurley point to strides made in next-generation data protection technologies.
"Massive investments in next-generation data protection technologies have started to yield results," Taneja says. "Look at all the new offerings that came out this year: Data Domain, Alacritus, Quantum DX30, Avamar, Neartek, Sepaton, STK Echoview. The list goes on and on. These represent a paradigm shift in the way data will be protected in the future."
Taneja predicted that that next-generation data protection will swing into high gear next year, with "many evaluations in the first half, and many implementations in the second half."
Marrone-Hurley notes "a number of innovations" in data protection and backup, "enabling users to more effectively manage their backup environment and reduce costs, while increasing efficiencies in their data protection schemas. We are seeing significant adoption of new technologies like VTL, ATA disk as target, and virtualization solutions being used for low-cost replication, snap, and mirroring."
While there was widespread agreement on the importance of ILM, regulatory compliance, and disaster recovery, analysts had other views on what to watch for in 2004.
Taneja notes that IP storage started to become a reality in 2003, "after three years of ridiculous claims and stupid predictions by people that shouldn't be in that business."
IP storage is still "only in first gear," Taneja says, with more to come.
Marrone-Hurley says 2003 was the year that "intelligent switches became a reality."
"We don't expect adoption of the actual services to happen immediately," she says, "but we believe that the introduction of these switches will change customers' buying criteria. Directors will have to be 'services ready' in order to make the cut.
And both Taneja and Marrone-Hurley predict continued acquisitions and consolidation within the storage industry.
"Traditional storage vendors are moving out of their core markets in order to deliver on a vision of enabling the IT infrastructure and delivering on storage and IT 'utility' models," says Marrone-Hurley. "VERITAS with Precise and Jareva, EMC with Documentum and VMware. These moves make me believe we will see the storage and IT ecostructure markets meld together over the next few years."
And Taneja even predicts a storage "IPO or two towards the end of the year."
A happy new year indeed.
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