The Storage Horizon: Looking Back, Looking Ahead


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Like any good pundit, at the end of October 2003 I made some predictions for 2004 and beyond. If you're one of those people who likes to look back at old predictions to see how they turned out, then you'll enjoy taking a look at last year's article. I think I was more right than wrong, but I'll let you make your own judgment.

Let's start with a quick review of what I said last year, since much of it still holds true, and then I'll offer my predictions on the changing storage landscape for the next couple of years.

In the one-to-two-year timeframe, I said I did not see optical storage coming — no change there, since the prediction seems to be holding.

I saw another year of the same old increases in tape density and speed. IBM came out with a new drive at 300 GB, and a drive with 40 GB native transfer and 120 MB/sec maximum data rate with compression. IBM also believes they have increased the compression of standard data to about three to one.

I mentioned that a bunch of different companies are looking at power management for SATA (serial ATA) storage. A number of companies have announced MAID (massive array of idle disks) products, such as Copan Systems.

Looking at last year's two-to-three-year predictions, I said that this area was hard to predict, and it still is for the same reasons: standards groups do not always stick to schedules. I know of a number of products that were delayed because of the change from 1Gb/s FC to 2Gb/s FC, and there are always questions of tradeoffs between density and speed.

On the speed density front, look at what Seagate has done with its new Savvio product. And we are facing some big issues and infrastructure changes, such as 4Gb and 8Gb Fibre Channel, with an interface change required for 10Gb Fibre Channel.

In the three-to-four-year timeframe, I suggested that a consumer technology for storage might morph into an enterprise storage technology. I made the following points:

  • SATA drives in RAIDs are not fully accepted in the enterprise.
  • The time to get SATA drives integrated into RAID storage has been slow.
  • If SATA is successful in the enterprise, the SCSI and Fibre Channel disk market will be hurt badly, given the cost differences.
I believe that we are beginning to see this problem emerge, with more and more RAIDs, even with enterprise controllers, supporting SATA drives. Ultra-SCSI drives may be going the way of the dinosaur soon, and the market impact on FC drives will not be a good thing for those of us who like their reliability and performance.

Since I was pretty general, my predictions from last year turned out pretty well. (Surely I was better than the yearly predictions you'll read in the Weekly World News or the National Enquirer).

And Now For 2005...

As we enter into the first half of 2005, here are some things that we should see on the hardware side:

  • 4Gb FC HBA availability will become commonplace.
  • 4Gb FC RAIDs will become available.
  • PCI Express will become commonplace in Linux clusters and on small Intel servers, replacing PCI-X.
  • RAID vendors will announce bigger, faster midrange devices with 4Gb, and in some cases support for up to 10Gb. Note that 10Gb will require an infrastructure change.
  • Disk sizes will get bigger, as we have been at 300 GB Fibre Channel drives for a long time. HDS has already announced 400 GB Fibre Channel drives, but we still need to see deliveries in quantity and shipment from the RAID vendors.
  • Increases in tape density for high-end tapes: Imation announced in May that they have built a plant that will create 1 TB tapes, so this is a step in that direction, but will performance increase at a commensurate rate?
  • Fibre Channel switch density will increase in port density, as will the bandwidth that is required for 4Gb FC.
What about software? Storage management will continue to improve, but storage management nirvana will not be reached. I define nirvana as where you can manage the servers, file system, HBAs/iSCSI NICs, switches, and RAIDs for a whole enterprise. This does not even include a single console for storage and network management.

I think we'll see better support for host side failover for Linux and other operating systems, and support for HSM from a number of shared file system vendors that currently do not support HSM.

Page 2: Management, File Systems Lag

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