Donning Our Swami Hats: Storage Trends for 2003 Page 2


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The Outlook for 2003

For 2003, the big question is whether the numbers will increase, decrease, or stay the same. "Even with the shift to networked storage, there have been a lot of restrictions on IT spending," says Walsworth. He believes that as the economic situation improves, we can expect to see this trend reverse in 2003. Bradley agrees. "Most analysts, both storage and others, say things are turning around," he says. "The slow but visible economic recovery means more business, and more business means more data," he continued.

Both of our storage gurus agree somewhat that the economy has taken a toll on the storage market as a whole. "Storage has not been immune to the downturn impacting the entire sector," says Walsworth. "Customers are in a position where they need to do more with less and are looking for the infrastructure and tools that enable them to do this," he continued. Bradley, somewhat less optimistic than Walsworth, added that he does see some recovery and volume increase in 2003.

With all the talk about the economy and its affect on the storage industry as a whole, we wanted to know if the enterprise storage market was beginning to lose its luster. Bradley says that the enterprise storage market is becoming dulled as technology matures and product margins decrease with that maturity. "Stock price erosion is there and offers fewer marketing dollars to advertise and create luster. Perhaps the improved economy will help," he says.

According to another recent study, the number of U.S.-based small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) using one or more business process automation software solutions more than doubled in the last 12 months, from 490,000 to more than one million -- but what is driving the growth in SMB storage, and will it continue through 2003? Walsworth says that SMBs have been impacted as much, if not more, by the economic downturn and are trying to streamline business processes in order to reduce costs and improve business efficiencies. "Automation is obviously one of the ways that has been able to achieve these economies and you can certainly expect this trend to continue through 2003," he says.

Bradley seems to think the SMBs that stayed lean and/or took measures to stay viable over the past 3 years probably had the least to spend on storage. And, he also says that those who did needed to ensure that the human costs were kept in line as well. "Data always increases while capacity does not grow and the lean years have probably stretched us to use what we had. It's time to reprovision and try to regrow the businesses," continued Bradley.

Over the past year or so, some industry observers have been questioning if NAS really stands for Network Attached Storage or Not Always Secure. We wanted to know if there was any truth behind this observation, and if so, what is the storage industry doing to eliminate it? Although Walsworth was not inclined to address this question, Bradley seemed to find the quippy moniker rather amusing. "I hadn't heard that one. Pretty funny," he said.

However, on a more serious note, Bradley said that it's certainly true that businesses in general have counted on systems' and operating systems' tools for security, including the network components. And, because of this, says Bradley, many did not consider that SANs and NAS devices directly attaching to the fabrics and the fabrics being bridged to one another would require much in terms of device security. Bradley believes that most security concerns can be addressed by simply following available best practices. "Often, it's been reported that the 'default' password on a SAN switch is not changed after installation -- no one would ever do that on a computer system," he concluded.

Storage customers and storage industry professionals have many questions and quite a few answers surrounding the future of the enterprise storage industry. And although the economy is still on everyone's mind, many analysts feel that things are turning around. So, maybe as the economic landscape improves, we will see changes in the present restrictions on IT spending, which in turn will help get the storage industry out of its slump.

» See All Articles by Columnist Leslie Wood

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