The storage software market has been hot, posting nine consecutive quarters of double-digit growth, and analysts expect the trend to continue for some time.
Storage management software has been a big driver of that growth. Gartner predicts that new license revenue for storage management software will reach $9.4 billion in 2009 an annual growth rate of 10.9 percent from 2004 through 2009.
One of the reasons for the growth is that businesses are looking to better manage their storage capacity use and are starting to automate some of their management functions.
Not surprisingly, information lifecycle management (ILM), or the practice of storing data according to its value, is a big part of the surge in storage management software sales. It has been suggested by some industry experts that as ILM creates a new focus on content, businesses are looking for SRM tools not only to better understand their storage usage, but also to help them automate the migration of files.
"Customers want the SRM tools that they are using to identify their storage usage and to provide the policies and engine to then migrate the identified files to the appropriate storage tier that they have implemented based on their ILM approach," says John Meyer, senior solutions architect at Dimension Data North America. "Vendors that can provide this functionality into fewer tools that IT has to learn and maintain will realize a competitive advantage."
Many in the industry stress that ILM is more than just a tool kit. It is a way of thinking about data and its management that essentially involves managing the data through its useful life. As the data's usefulness changes, so should the way it's stored and managed.
"At their best, ILM strategies function to move data from one storage platform to another, based on how the data is used, the costs of the various types of available storage and performance," says Stephen Harding, director of marketing at Tek-Tools.
Harding says functions such as file analysis and data classification are key to any ILM initiative. He also believes that data must be groomed throughout its entire life.
"This is what ILM is all about, and this includes HSM policies," Harding says. "ILM strategies can certainly function without content management and still offer value to organizations. The idea of content management is a complicated one because most stored data lacks adherence to any set of conventions, making managing the content a difficult at best task and requiring tools that can complement the data classification and file analysis features of SRM products."
Some industry experts say SRM is valuable for monitoring capacity utilization, but a higher level of functionality is required for content-based management.
"New technologies like ILM are driving the understanding of application data," says Tom Clark, director of solutions and technology at McData. Clark believes that these can be converged into a single platform but the proper means is to combine different levels and types of management within a standards-based framework such as SMI-S. Clark says SMI-S already includes models for storage virtualization, one of the contributing technologies for efficient HSM and ILM.
SMBs and Management Software
Some analysts have suggested that another factor that will drive growth in the storage management software market is that small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are looking to update or establish better storage management and data protection. Indeed, SMBs have become one of the fastest-growing segments of the storage market and a growing focus of storage vendors. Some say appliances that are pre-configured for specific tasks will offer an appealing solution for this market.
Clark agrees that SMBs are a promising market with the caveat that not all SMBs are large enough or have mission-critical applications that warrant a change to networked storage.
"Unlike large enterprises, SMBs often lack technical expertise to design and implement shared storage solutions," says Clark. "Pre-configured solutions that target a specific storage need (such as streamlined backup) are certainly useful for SMB customers who rely on their VAR or reseller to supply and support a solution."
All organizations, from the smallest business to the largest corporation, are seeing massive data growth, creating a need to manage that data as easily and efficiently as possible.
Harding believes that with cheaper and more diverse storage and storage management options becoming available, vendors are targeting the SMB market with products tailored to its needs.
"The idea of an appliance pre-configured with a storage management product certainly does seem appealing," Harding says. "Who wouldn't like a low-cost device that can plug into their network and begin managing their environment?"
However, he says he has not seen any real demand for such appliances and that customers tend to have needs that aren't easily addressed with a plug-and-play device.
Meyer thinks one approach is to offer appliance-type devices that bundle several solution elements together to ease the implementation into SMB environments. "Having the software and hardware integrated into a solution provides the SMB with an approach that reduces their time to implement and allows them to start realizing the productivity gains more quickly," he says.
Enterprise Saturation Benefits SMBs
One factor driving vendor interest in the SMB space is the saturation of the large enterprise market.
Meyer says enterprise saturation benefits SMBs. Vendors will continue to target the SMB space with broad, scalable product offerings that provide the same rich feature set, reliability, availability and performance as the enterprise market segment, he says.
"In addition to providing products that the SMB space can consume, vendors will continue to align their sales and support organizational models to fit the needs of the SMB customer," he adds. Meyer says the SMB procurement processes and size of the individual transactions will force vendors who want to target this space to implement efficient sales to support processes that minimize costs.
Harding thinks the enterprise market isn't saturated yet, at least not for storage management solutions, but he agrees that vendors are looking to the SMB market. "Data growth and storage management are key issues regardless of the size of the organization," says Harding. "A local mom and pop printing shop needs to control its cost and management of customer data just as a large financial institution does. The key is ensuring the solution fits the need."
Harding says SMBs are a wide-ranging and untapped market. "SMBs don't necessarily need an end-to-end storage management solution, but they do share similar pains as enterprises that are looking for an end-to-end solution," he says. "Vendors looking to target the SMB market will offer compartmentalized and modular solutions, so that end users can choose from a menu of products to create a custom suite that both meets their needs and that can grow as the organization grows."
Clark says SAN technology is moving down market because it is proven, mature and available.
"Market penetration is now percolating through the SMB market space," he says. "SMBs have essentially the same needs as large enterprises in terms of data availability, performance, reliability and so on."
Clark believes that vendors can help solve SMB storage needs by producing lower-cost versions of the technology that proved so successful at the high end.
"Mid-tier storage, lower cost HBAs, iSCSI, low-cost SAN switches, affordable management software, etc., are putting SAN technology within the reach of SMBs and enabling them to reduce administrative overhead while enhancing availability and performance," says Clark.
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