A Storage Industry In Transition Meets In Dallas

The big trend storage is there is no single big trend, which is why the agenda at one of the industry's largest gathering is so diverse and varied.

George Crump

April 3, 2012

4 Min Read
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Like much of enterprise IT, the storage industry is going through changes. Storage managers are confronting new technologies, new techniques, and new strategies, while coping with huge growth in the amount of data that needs to be stored and not a lot more money in the IT budget to buy more storage. With that backdrop, storage managers and storage vendors are gathering in Dallas for the Storage Networking World conference and show.

It will be a busy week, and I have more than 25 briefings scheduled. I'll provide broad coverage here at InformationWeek.com and post SNW Flashes on my own website as often as I can as I meet with and learn more about the current crop of startups that are beginning to make their mark and question the larger storage players, which are digesting the many acquisitions they've made during the last two years.

There is so much going on in the industry that the main trend is that there isn't a main trend. Our briefing agenda this year is extremely varied. In years past it has been dominated by a particular flavor of storage. This year there is no flavor of the month or the year. Instead, there is the entire range of cloud, flash, unified, and traditional SAN vendors. And to highlight the old adage that what is old is new again, we see return of tape and data protection as fashionable topics.

This lack of a single theme or focus for the show is an indication of two trends in the industry. First, there are many challenges in dealing with storage and most data centers are experiencing all of them. The items at the top of most IT manager's minds are maintaining or increasing performance, keeping pace with capacity demands, protecting all of this data, and finding a way to pay for it all without breaking the IT budget.

The second trend is the realization that this is a situation where no single solution is going to be able to meet all of those demands. Vendors are also figuring out how to better work with what you have in the data center to keep costs down. For example, there are an increasing number of vendors that are just focused on meeting the performance demand by augmenting, not replacing legacy storage. Even the flash-only storage system vendors are suggesting that it is a good idea to keep legacy mechanical storage as a repository for old or inactive data, leveraging tools like VMware's Storage vMotion to move data back and forth.

The ability to manage these mixed environments is an incredible challenge for storage managers and a big opportunity for vendors that provide multi-system management software as well as companies that have chosen to provide traditional storage services as an application. It is also an ideal situation for the hypervisor-based systems, as we outlined in our recent article "The Storage Hypervisor".

If there is a trend at this show it is the increasing appearance of flash storage vendors, which is an important sign of the times. Over the next few years SNW will look more like the Flash Memory Summit as more and more of the industry gets consumed by the flash storage wave.

Finally, the best part of having this show in downtown Dallas is the number of IT professionals that will have easy access to the event. As I look outside the windows of the SNW Analyst Suite there are potentially more data centers in my line of sight than were present in some of the previous cities that hosted SNW. It is a great opportunity for local storage managers to meet with their peers and hear about the latest and greatest.

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George Crump is lead analyst of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Storage Switzerland's disclosure statement.

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