Well, it's that time of year again. January is almost over and we have heard more than our fair share of both useful and useless predictions for 2003. And although the folks at Enterprise Storage Forum are not in the "prediction" business (we don't have any crystal balls, tea leaves or swami hats), we thought we would find out from a few well-informed storage folks what they think this coming year holds for the storage industry.
During the third quarter of 2002, storage systems revenue was down 3 percent from the previous quarter, according to International Data Corp.'s (IDC) Worldwide Disk Storage Tracker market sizing data. In addition, overall disk storage revenue decreased from $4.9 billion in the second quarter to $4.74 billion in the third quarter of 2002, claims IDC. IDC also reported that revenue for storage area networks (SANs), network-attached storage (NAS), and direct-attached storage (DAS) decreased 6 percent, 10 percent, and 2 percent, respectively.
The decline in spending by companies is clearly the major cause, of course, and IT personnel are trying to do more with less, according to Mark Bradley, technology strategist at BrightStor Storage Solutions. "IT managers are also less in control of their expenditures and more than once, I've heard that the CFO is determining what is purchased, not the CIO or other IT management," he says. Rick Walsworth, director of product marketing at Maranti Networks, believes that IT spending has been practically shutdown and that customers are trying to maximize storage utilization, which will require more intelligence in SAN fabrics. "Application-Aware Storage Networking platforms will certainly increase storage utilization levels in 2003," says Walsworth.
Although these 2002 numbers may have created a dismal view of the overall storage market, they don't tell us all of the reasons behind the declining numbers. Walsworth believes that some of this decline is based on the changes that the NAS market has undergone in the past year or so. He says that the NAS flier functionality is slowly being removed from the storage arrays and more NAS "heads" are entering the market. "Switched NAS is a trend that started in 2002 and will continue to grow in 2003," says Walsworth. He believes that integrated SANs and NAS will be a strong system requirement going forward in 2003 and beyond.
However, according to Bradley, other than business slowdown, he says not that much has changed in the NAS market. "Capacities are up and backup of NAS-stored data is more available and reliable," says Bradley. "There are more vendor choices and thus more different OSes being deployed in NAS devices. We seem to also have gotten over the CIFS and NFS accessibility mismatches," he continued.
IDC also reported that revenue for storage area networks (SANs), network-attached storage (NAS), and direct-attached storage (DAS) decreased. I asked one of our storage gurus what he thought was behind this. Bradley said that because most SAN deployments are in big systems environments -- glass houses, if you will -- when mainframe spending decreases, so does SAN spending to some extent. "NAS capability fills some server functionality, so when more file server capability is needed, why not buy a NAS box instead of a server with large disk systems when a NAS unit is cheaper?" continued Bradley. He also said that DAS having the smallest decrease did not surprise him because he believes that DAS is and has been the predominant disk for PCs in general.