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An Interview with Tom Coughlin of the Storage Visions Conference
The future of enterprise storage is rich and exciting, and Tom Coughlin, author of the 2004 Entertainment Digital Media Storage Report and the force behind the Storage Visions Conference, has a view to the far horizon.
In Part 1 of this interview, Coughlin discussed the top challenges in content storage, the types of storage enterprises will be integrating, and how mobile and video storage will fit into the picture. In this final segment, he elaborates on small form-factor storage and its effect on the enterprise, reflects on what these new enterprise storage developments will cost in time and money, and offers a hint for smart enterprises wanting to stay on top of the game.
Margaret Akin (MA): Where else will we see the effect of smaller form factors in storage?
TC: Smaller form-factor storage is also being driven by the sales increase for laptop computers. Lots of corporate users buy only laptops now for use both in the field and in the office. This buying trend is helping push the volume in sales of 2.5-inch drives. Even better, the ultra-light laptop gets 40 gigabytes on a 1.8-inch drive. Before long, we’ll get 80 gigabytes on a 1.8-inch drive. Think of how easy it will be to take your office with you with a very small ultra-light laptop or tablet computer.
MA: Do USB (universal serial bus) drives figure into the picture also?
TC: Yes, the enterprise is also benefiting from the rise of USB drives as a replacement for floppy. These small drives can carry a lot of corporate info. Flash memory provides a low-cost USB storage device, but for higher capacities, USB drives using Cornice Storage Elements (which utilize the same hardware as a conventional hard disk drive) with storage capacities currently as high as 2 GB, and at a cost of about $120, are becoming popular.
Marty Foltyn (MF): Let’s get to the bottom line. What’s all this going to cost the enterprise?
TC: Everything involved with storage is moving toward controlling the cost of storage while offering increasing capacity and meeting increasing demand.
Look at the cost of the real estate the enterprise has in operations. Because costs continue to rise for office space, we’ll need denser storage using smaller form-factor drives or denser arrays of conventional drives so that our storage hardware requires less and less of this expensive space. What we see in the future is smaller form-factor drives with the same or higher capacity.
We’re already starting to see this denser storage develop in the high end and in blade-based storage. In 2003 Seagate introduced the first 10,000-RPM SCSI 2.5 inch disk drive for smaller form-factor storage systems. Hitachi GST 2.5-inch ATA drives have been very popular in conventional blade server environments.
As an example of a dense digital storage system, StorageTek combines five Maxtor SATA drives into a blade, puts the blades into an enclosure, and the enclosure into a rack. With more data stored in fewer square feet of office or factory space, we’ve lowered the cost of the enterprise’s net real estate.
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MF: We’re here with you at the Storage Visions Conference, which takes place alongside the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). We’re seeing a number of companies that offer products to both home consumers as well as corporations. Is there ever a crossover between consumer and enterprise concerns?
TC: Of course. It’s a good idea for the enterprise to keep an eye on consumer electronics. We see PDA and MP3 players with various flash memory systems, but there are also many examples with hard disk drives. Consumers first picked up mobile phones with embedded cameras, but businesspeople soon spotted the benefits for research and data gathering. HDTV has been marketed to the consumer, but the benefits in clearer problem-solving videos and training videos are making inroads into the enterprise. And they all take more storage space.
MF: What innovations are you seeing at CES that bode well for enterprises?
TC: As I mentioned earlier, digital video recorders, also known as personal video players, have great potential for education and training. As another example, when I call in for help, I don’t need to see just a canned video that might only approximate my particular situation. I can focus my mobile phone camera to show customer support personnel what I am doing, and get feedback in real time to solve my problem. And the personally tailored response to my problem can be captured and used by my internal help desk to solve future problems without having to dial out for customer support.
Global GPS systems also have features with potential for enterprises to incorporate. Navigation-based systems and map systems using hard disk drives for automobiles are coming to us from Japan. And of course they will fuel storage growth. These interactive systems can aid in finding trouble spots and solving problems. Using a hard disk drive and an active sensor network such as is popular in Japan allows real-time updating and monitoring of traffic situations to help folks take the least time to get to where they are going. With a hard disk drive, data can be updated and significant detailed maps can be stored.
MF: Will enterprises become consumer-focused?
TC: Enterprises will need to pay attention to developments in the consumer market. Smaller, high capacity digital storage devices enable whole new types of consumer devices. Employees will use new storage devices and methods of communicating because they make their jobs easier and enhance their productivity. And when innovations catch on with your employees, you’re not going to be able to keep those innovations out of the office.
Almost all communication technologies involve increasing amounts of data that need to be stored somewhere, so enterprise storage plans will reflect changes in the market. Also, increasing content use by consumers and employees will drive increasing demand for storage systems in the enterprise to create, store, and deliver the required content. Savvy companies will watch the entertainment and digital content consumer industries to scope out these important trends and to get a leg up on their competition.