New Enterprise Storage Developments and Challenges, Part 1


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An Interview with Tom Coughlin of the Storage Visions Conference

We surround ourselves with data that we need to store. Think of your “To File” manila folder or the sea of papers you navigate to get to your desk every day. But also think of the vast amount of digital data you need to keep track of. You generate some of it yourself, while others send you a whole swamp full of information to read, use, edit, store, study, cite, and so on, both in-house and on the Web. Now multiply that by every person in your enterprise. Wow!

While our present-day needs for data storage are pretty dramatic, we’re guessing the future is going to be even bigger and better — and crammed with even more data to store. We recently had the opportunity to talk about the future of enterprise data storage with Tom Coughlin, author of the 2004 Entertainment Digital Media Storage Report and the force behind the Storage Visions Conference.

We thought he’d see the far horizon of data storage based on the intent of this conference, held in January of each year, which is to bring together industry visionaries, content providers, storage system providers, and end users to focus on the intersection of data storage with content creation, content delivery, and electronics systems.

We were right. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation. And just to give you food for thought, Storage Visions January 2005 is planning to celebrate shipment of the two-billionth hard disk drive. Yup, that’s the 2,000,000,000th.

Marty Foltyn (MF) and Margaret Akin (MA): Tom, let’s start off with the big question. What is the top challenge in content storage?

Tom Coughlin (TC): First of all, we have a lot of drivers creating digital content that needs to be stored and manipulated. We’re converting existing analog content to digital, plus we’re creating and handling new digital content. The content value chain is a circle that starts with creation, then goes to editing, then archival holding and distribution, and ends with final reception. Important elements that drive demand for storage and capability are all increasing.

MF: So, what’s in the circle to help us store the content?

TC: Storage devices offer an interesting value proposition to users. Although the growth in areal densities (megabits per square inch) has slowed, capacity is already enormous and is still increasing. For example, we’re looking forward to serial ATA (SATA) disk capacity of over 1 terabyte on a single disk drive in three years.

MA: What about the architecture of our storage systems?

TC: With more and more human content available online, we also need storage support for transaction processing and delivery. This trend favors advanced performance through Fibre Channel, serial SCSI, SAN, and NAS. To keep the content available, we need to use in-line and near-line storage before we move the data to archive storage. Most archiving is done for preservation driven by regulatory reasons as well as the preservation of entertainment content. In general, this is the province of tape and optical media.

Interview Continued on Page 2

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