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The Twelve Storage Trends of Christmas

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Analysts and vendors tend to act a lot less seriously at this time of year. In fact, plied with a healthy dose of Christmas cheer (or Christmas beer in some cases), they can get downright frivolous.

Here, they wax lyrically about the 12 storage trends of Christmas:

On the twelve trends for storage, a vendor/analyst said to me

Twelve SANs IPing,
Eleven mergers merging,
Ten SAS drives SASing,
Nine centers shrinking,
Eight G is coming,
Seven vendors milking,
Six CDPing,
Five virtualize,
More acronyms,
Three thumb drives,
Two less tape backups,
And an archive for e-discovery.

And now for the details.

Twelve SANs Iping

Steve Duplessie, senior analyst and founder of Enterprise Strategy Group, believes the title of trend of the year for 2006 should be shared jointly by iSCSI and data de-duplication. Both are now mainstream products, he says, and both are having plenty of money spent on them.

"2007 will be the year where data mattered more than the boxes it was stored on," predicts Duplessie. "New regulations and visibility will mean that categorizing, classifying and treating data differently is going to become the mission of the user. Finding stuff will be more important than storing stuff — finally."

Greg Schulz, senior analyst and founder of StorageIO, is another analyst who is bullish on iSCSI.

"The real turf war, at least for the next couple of years, will not be Fibre Channel versus iSCSI, rather, iSCSI bumping heads with NAS as well as SAS for low-end direct attached markets," says Schulz.

Dan Tanner, founder of storage consultancy ProgresSmart, takes the IP SAN trend a stage further. He believes that within a year, 60 percent of organizations will have implemented IP SANs.

"The move to iSCSI is happening, and Fibre Channel is destined to become legacy technology," says Tanner. "FC is now chasing iSCSI due to speed, commoditization of iSCSI components and the existing wealth of IP know-how."

Eleven Mergers Merging

Brocade and McData, Quantum and ADIC, EMC and just about anyone — it seems that over the last year or so, merger mania has gripped the storage universe. This has given rise to several analyst pronouncements.

"M&A has continued at a strong pace — EMC, HP and Cisco acquiring several startups, Brocade acquiring McData — indicating that the storage industry is consolidating," says Ashish Nadkarni, a consultant at GlassHouse Technologies. "Cisco will emerge as the leader in the SAN infrastructure space and the combined Brocade/McData will struggle to maintain its present position."

Tanner traces the origins of the current M&A craze to what occurred during the 1980s, when many companies trimmed down their R&D budgets and shifted the focus from in-house development to buying promising startups. The problem is that most companies do a poor job of merging.

"NetApp does a terrible job of integration, as they have done little to date with Spinnaker and have failed to turn the Alacritus deal into a CDP product," says Tanner. "EMC does a much better job of integration."

Ten Centers Shrinking

Thomas Edsall, senior vice president for the data center business unit at Cisco Systems, is big on consolidation. He sees it coming on several fronts.

"Driven by the reduction in WAN/Metro costs, regulatory pressures and capital/operating expenditure savings, customers are consolidating multiple data centers into fewer centers," says Edsall "These new data centers have thousands of storage ports and are driving the deployment of higher density director chassis and business continuance applications across optical and IP infrastructure."

He also sees server consolidation as a part of this trend, driven by the deployment of blade servers and virtual machine technologies. This, he says, is accelerating the movement away from direct attached storage (DAS).

Nine SAS Drives SASing

Serial attached SCSI (SAS) continues to grow in adoption as a replacement for parallel SCSI in embedded applications such as servers, blade servers and low- to mid-range storage arrays.

"As a storage interface, continued rollout on servers and appliances for direct attach applications to support both SAS and SATA continues, with some storage interface border wars between iSCSI on one front and Fibre Channel on the other," says Schulz. "SAS disk drives will continue to do well in the market place in 2007." Eight G is Coming

Edsall also foresees the rapid arrival of 8G Fibre Channel by the end of 2007. But the transition from 2G to 4G will dominate, he says.

"The market is still absorbing 4G technology," says Edsall. "The cost and distance limitations associated with 8G, plus no clear IO requirements for 8G, will push off widespread deployments out to late 2008."

Seven Vendors Milking

A few years back, it was all about storage hardware. The spotlight shifted briefly to software, but now storage services are coming more and more into the spotlight. The emphasis appears to have shifted from products to how they are implemented.

"I expect storage services to continue to grow with an even stronger demand around IT information infrastructure," says Nadkarni. "IT shops will need a lot of assistance in getting all the various components of their infrastructure talking to each other and product vendors will fall short of their aspirations in the services market."

Cisco, too, is upbeat about services. Edsall sees regulatory compliance as driving SAN Services. HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulatory pressures are forcing companies to look at ways to implement business continuity over distance.

"This accelerated the deployment of applications such as EMC's SRDF or HP's Continuous Access and focused customers preferences for SAN technology optimizing those applications," says Edsall. "Customers have looked for solutions that can enhance I/O over distance for these applications in a secure manner."

He sees this as playing to Cisco's strength in SAN services, along with a general mushrooming in the service sector to deal with identity theft, encryption, data movement, CDP, provisioning and business continuity.

Page 2: Six CDPing

Continued From Page 1

Six CDPing

Continuous Data Protection (CDP) has been the subject of an awful lot of hype. But as it becomes better understood, its potential is showing signs of being realized.

CDP has also been a hot area on the acquisition front. EMC, for instance, acquired Kashya.

There are many approaches to CDP, and companies must understand these and the tradeoffs involved," cautions Tanner.

He points out, for instance, that some CDP products focus purely on one item such as e-mail backup or database protection, while others try to apply CDP across a wider realm. What you gain in width, however, you may lose in consistency.

"The CDP decision should include where in the stack you do your protection," says Tanner. "As you go lower, CDP becomes more general, but has a less consistent image for every file."

He says companies are mainly adopting it at the higher level for the most critical applications. They are showing the strongest interest in CDP tools that apply to specific functions such as Oracle databases or e-mail backup.

Five Virtualize

Virtualization is top of mind with most analysts. Clive Longbottom, an analyst with UK-based consultancy Quocirca Ltd., says virtualization has become the norm, and this has led to storage tiering taking center stage, i.e., using different types of storage within the virtualized space for different things, such as virtual tape, staged backup, and so on.

"The primary driver behind the ongoing wave of storage virtualization is the need to get a grip on data and information assets for regulation and compliance," says Longbottom. "Cost is also important, as organizations have to ensure that their storage assets are utilized to a higher level than currently."

Schulz, too, has plenty to say about virtualization in storage. Initially, he sees file system virtualization, also known as NAS aggregation or global/clustered name spaces, as taking center stage. Over the course of the year, storage administrators will see the effects in terms of simplifying NAS and file management.

"Later in 2007 and moving into 2008, we should see the long awaited and discussed switch-based storage virtualization market pick up," predicts Schulz. "This will center around data movement and migration rather than on the pooling of volumes."

What will help make switch-based virtualization and transparent data movement possible, Schulz says, will be a number of factors: faster, more robust storage services modules or blades; continued evolution of software from vendors such as Topio (now NetApp), StoreAge (now LSI), Kashya (now EMC), Fujitsu and others that already support multiple storage switches from the likes of Brocade, Cisco and QLogic; more focus on requirements such as data movement and migration instead of LUN and volume pooling; and big-name vendors providing software to run on switch-based storage services modules (NetApp, LSI/Engenio, EMC, and so on).

But not everyone is head over heels in love with virtualization. Cisco remains a major holdout, despite what the rest of the market is saying.

"Storage virtualization is still a wait-and-see application," says Edsall. "Customers are waiting for more widespread deployment and acceptance of storage virtualization in mainstream production environments."

More Acronyms

After only two years in the spotlight, could it be goodbye for information lifecycle management (ILM)? Instead of ILM, it could be II or IIM or ITII. II — let's hope the first big user is the U.S. Navy — stands for information infrastructure. Tag on an M for management or IT for information technology and you have the acronym de jour.

"I expect the likes of Cisco, HP, IBM, Network Appliance, HDS and EMC making a bigger play for the 'information infrastructure' market via yet more acquisitions," says Nadkarni. "That means the industry as a whole will jump on this bandwagon by replacing ILM."

Three Thumb Drives

Longbottom sketches out another trend to watch in storage — the demand to manage mobile storage assets. This includes PDAs, smartphones, thumb drives and various other devices. By their very nature, they are going to be left in unfortunate places or pilfered by criminals. Thus security of mobile data is critical.

"With a thumb drive now capable of holding up to 8Gb, they are becoming major security holes for companies," says Longbottom. "Loss of a single thumb drive, or leaving PDAs and cell phones on trains or taxis with zero security, opens up interesting legal ramifications."

Less Tape Backups

Disk to disk backup is certainly catching hold. And that trend will broaden over the next 12 months. M&A activity is also reflecting this — witness Avamar's acquisition by EMC.

"Backup to other than tape is now a definite and unwavering trend," says Tanner. "There are so many alternatives these days — de-duplication, data reduction/compression, reducing traffic on WAN, etc. — and it is all converging."

An Archive for e-Discovery

An unfortunate thing happened a couple of years back: lawyers began to understand the legal ramifications of e-mail. Since then, they have been having a ball wrapping corporate resources up in tracing e-mail in what is now known as the e-discovery process. Veritable fishing expeditions are now the norm, as lawyers seek to search years of e-mail to find one stray comment or faux-pas. And it's the corporations that have to foot the bill or face hefty fines and even lose major cases as a result.

"I see a massive impact of e-discovery on the way data is stored and archived," says Mike Karp, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates. "Everyone's going to be in court at some point, so you might as well be prepared."

He notes that only a few vendors to date have comprehensive solutions. The rest are still learning what it all means ... just like most IT managers and lawyers.

And that's what's under the storage Christmas tree for 2006.

For more storage features, visit Enterprise Storage Forum Special Reports

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