Storage Growth in the Enterprise

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Between 5 and 7 exabytes (or 10 bytes of data to the 18 th power) of new information are created every year. If this somewhat conservative estimate is correct, then that means on average, more than 800 megabytes of information per year are generated for every person living on earth. This makes William Shakespeare, whose “Complete Works” amount to approximately 5 megabytes, seem like a slacker. Of course, these numbers have been twisted like so much political polling data (Shakespeare was a very prolific writer—as someone who’s slept through several of his plays, I should know) to illustrate a point: Information is exploding. Just ask Rick Bauer, technology director of the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA).

 

“Data is just exploding, and there’s no diminution of that growth pattern in sight,” he said. “I think we’ve had a real roller-coaster ride in terms of growth in the past decade. We’ve seen Moore’s Law in spades with both tape capacity and storage capacity on discs growing by logarithmic metrics. During the pre-Internet-bubble days, there was an almost breathless speculation about storage approaching infinity, bandwidth costs approaching zero and profitability approaching billions weekly, or something like that.”

 

In the mid- to late-1990s, information storage really came into its own in organizational IT with upsurges in Fibre-channel-based storage, storage area networking (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) deployments. “There was a real exuberance as network storage became more and more ready for primetime in the data center,” Bauer said. “In terms of adoption in the enterprise, it really began there: solving problems that the data center was having with the amount of storage proliferating and not being able to track that with direct attached (storage).”

 

Although IT has slowed down—even after an economic recovery of sorts—storage keeps on keeping on. Two areas are particularly strong in the storage space, Bauer said. The first is Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI), a method of connecting storage facilities that is increasingly used by both big corporations and small- to medium-sized businesses. The other, storage virtualization, has helped organizations condense heterogeneous data into clear and easy-to-understand implements. Virtualization engines allow storage professionals to view data pools granularly, while managing and backing up aggregate information.

 

However impressive these new technologies are, though, they have to serve enterprises and their objectives. “Storage has got to be aligned to the business units, and the business units of the enterprise are the biggest drivers for the growth of storage,” Bauer said. “They’re the ones who are deploying the large databases, whether it be e-commerce, analytics or any of the other things fueling that growth. While I don’t have the exact figures, I would pretty much bet the mortgage payment that the growth of database or just the size of the databases themselves are really major pulls into the storage side of things. That’s how the storage gets justified: When you’re purchasing these large systems and arrays and, concomitantly, the kind of security and data protection systems you have to have as well, all of that is being driven by some business driver. It’s usually the manager of customer, business or critical infrastructure data.”

 

A key driver of growth in the storage industry has been regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Projected spending in 2005 on regulatory compliance in the United States by Fortune 500 companies is more than $16 billion, Bauer said. “As storage has become more centralized, it’s a bigger and bigger target, not just for recreational hacking, but from people who are really part of criminal enterprises and attacking that data for economic advantage. We’re also seeing that in the security space, with some of the more publicized mishandling and exposure of private customer data. That seems to be a real problem right now: tapes being lost, tapes being exposed, things not being encrypted.

 

“On the part of the government, in some ways the United States is playing catch-up here to very stringent and customer-focused regulations in Japan and the European Union,” he added. “I think we’re seeing a sea change on the part of Congress to take some of that legislation. Once corporate America has a financial penalty for accidents or really caring that much about the data, then I think we’ll have a lot more board members taking steps to make sure that data is secure.”

 

Yet storage professionals shouldn’t wait for the government to get its act together to secure data. They ought to be working together and promoting best practices, Bauer said. “People will ask the question, ‘How do we do it?’ Hopefully, certified storage professionals are going to be able to give a variety of different ways, from physical to digital. This is where storage professionals who are trained will help get professionals who are not as aware of all the ways to secure data in flight.”

 

Storage growth in enterprises will likely continue unabated in the future, due in large part to a couple of focal factors. “I think ubiquitous data—secure and whenever you want it—will be a driver for the next big things in our industry,” Bauer said. “We’re surrounded by mountains of data. Tools for finding what we need are becoming more significant as we multiply the data out, from the ability to intelligently sift through everything from the data warehouse to the individual desktop search for that CD I burned for my brother-in-law last weekend.”

 

Another significant source of storage growth will be data management on an increasingly global basis, he said. “By managing, I mean securing, mining, protecting and keeping data legal. You’re going to find companies really looking for good solutions to manage a global information store. In the next five years, there are going some exciting things around being able to move data easily in an optimized and secure fashion from point to point.”

 

Additionally, some of the most interesting developments in the storage sector within the next few years will take place not in the workplace, but rather the homes of individual consumers, Bauer predicted. “The resurgence of Apple is due to the ability to manage data in musical form. With video and music on-demand, figuring out how to manage security and digital rights, and yet be able to push data from the living room to the car, is going to mean software, hardware and storage companies working together to put out exciting products. I think we’re also going to see storage professionals managing those.”

 

–Brian Summerfield, brians@certmag.com

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