2004: Top Ten Trends to Watch

'Tis time to look ahead to what the New Year will bring to the world of storage networking

January 2, 2004

8 Min Read
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As we open a red-rimmed, rheumy eye on the new year, it's time to take stock of the storage networking world. Overnight, 2004 is upon us, with the usual questions begging to be answered: Are we getting anywhere? Who's in charge? Who's dragging behind? Where did I park the car? [Ed. note: The last one, we can't help you with.]

Without further ado, swallow your aspirin and let's get down to business. Here is what we, the editors of Byte and Switch, view as the top 10 storage networking trends for 2004.

No. 10: Virtualization Myth or Reality?

Simply put, virtualization makes it easier for organizations to manage resources through applications that pool, replicate, and back up data. At this stage, it’s probably more of a goal than a reality. Most major vendors have announced some kind of virtualization strategy, and the quest for virtualization brought about several 2003 acquisitions, including EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) buying VMware; Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) acquiring Spinnaker; and Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT) purchasing Sistina Software. Here are some of our articles and resources on virtualization:

No. 9: At Your (Storage) ServicesPutting all the pieces of networked storage together can get complicated and time-consuming. That’s why services make sense. Keeping track of all the service options can also be complicated and time-consuming in its own right, though. There are full-service services that get the whole shebang up and running, and others that specialize in one aspect of running the SAN. For instance, telcos such as AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: FON) offer remote replication services for disaster recovery. Other companies, including ManagedStorage International Inc. (MSI), sell services through carriers but also offer higher-end outsourcing directly to enterprise users. Check out the following articles:

No. 8: SAN Extensions – A Sonet Boom?

Metro Optical network vendors Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), and Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) jumped into the storage networking market with SAN extensions in 2003. Sonet is more widely available in the metro area and beyond than its rivals, although other extension technologies such as DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing), CDWM (coarse wavelength-division multiplexing), and (iFCP) Internet Fibre Channel Protocol also fit into major vendors’ strategies.

No. 7: Can Tape Get Back Up?

Tape has never been so severely challenged as the backup medium of choice. Low-cost ATA drives take away much of tape’s price advantage, and compliance issues mandate information be available for immediate retrieval -- and there’s nothing immediate about tape. Some tape vendors continue to make money – although the smart ones are hedging their bets by combining disk and tape backup. Look for disk-to-disk and disk-to-disk-to-tape backup to cut into tape’s role but not to kill it outright.

No. 6: A Gaggle of Gigs

4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel for the next generation of SANs won’t be available until next year, but vendors are already contemplating a jump to 10 Gbit/s to keep up with Ethernet capabilities. So what happens in 2004? Do vendors fully commit to 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel or decide the jump from the current 2-Gbit/s isn’t worth it? User demand will no doubt play a big role in the decision.

No. 5: Mergers and Acquisitions – Gobble, Gobble

We’re still in an age of consolidation in storage networking. We saw that in 2003, and the big shoppers still have their checkbooks open. EMC spent nearly $4 billion acquiring three startups this year and few industry experts think it's finished. It will be interesting to see if non-storage companies jump into this market -- as Red Hat did by acquiring Sistina in December.

No. 4: ILM – In Our Lifetime?The quest for an ILM (information lifecycle management) solution was so important in 2003 that it launched a flurry of hardware vendors buying companies primarily for their data archiving and management functionality. Those acquisitions include EMC buying Legato and Documentum; NetApp buying Spinnaker; Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) buying Persist Technologies; and Connected Corp. acquiring Archive-it. Those deals, along with a slew of hardware-software partnerships, set the groundwork for ILM offerings in 2004.

Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK) likes the term ILM so much that it filed for trademark protection on the phrase. Few of its rivals think it will be successful. But if it is, many marketeers will mourn the loss of a truly lyric and moving buzzword.

No. 3: Microsoft's New Frontier

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) moved to dominate the NAS market with Windows Storage Server 2003 and jump-started iSCSI adoption by releasing software that complies with it. Is the Redmond behemoth looking to provide storage with a benign boost, or find another world to conquer? The upcoming year should reveal much about Microsoft's future in storage.

No. 2: Compliance – How Much Is Enough?

A blizzard of new laws such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and tightened SEC regulations forced compliance on the storage networking world. As technical and financial managers wonder how to best stay within these regulations, vendors are eager to shove compliance products down their throat. The last laugh could be on the vendors if compliance turns out to be a management rather than technology issue.

No. 1: IP Storage – First Steps

By most indications, iSCSI is finally ready for primetime. IP storage is cheaper, easier to manage, and it removes the distance limitations of Fibre Channel. Microsoft’s backing of iSCSI, the adoption of standards and the appearance of iSCSI products all point to the emergence of IP storage in 2004.

Not even iSCSI’s most ardent supporters expect it to replace Fibre Channel in 2004, or for a long time. They predict a period of coexistence where IP storage moves into low-end SANs and is used for secondary storage. Mainly, it will replace DAS (direct attached storage) in smaller companies. Still, eventually IP-based storage networking will take over. The question is when.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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