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Change Is Good

To paraphrase a slogan from the recent political season, change is on the way. If there was ever a doubt about the potential impact of new technologies on storage, a series of product announcements this week by major vendors has made it clear that things are changing in Storageland and probably for the better.

This week we've seen product rollouts by EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: JAVA), and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). EMC introduced its Cloud-Optimized Storage, which aims to make it easy for service providers and enterprise IT departments to offer storage as a service. Sun rolled out a line of low-cost, high-performance appliances that make innovative use of solid-state technology. And Cisco announced SANs optimized to work with VMware's virtualization technology.

There are many interesting elements to each announcement. In at least one (Sun), it is the use of innovative hardware. But it is the new software that holds the most promise over the long run. Advances in hardware are important and can help you store more data, improve performance, or cut costs. But in most cases hardware isn't going to make your job easier or let you provide more services to your customers and your company. With new, sophisticated software, each vendor vows to automate many of the mundane and tedious processes that fill the days of storage administrators.

Whether it's cloud-optimized storage, open-source storage, VMware-optimized SANs, or just upgrades to existing storage software applications, we are now beginning to see the kinds of advanced management capabilities that seem more commonplace in other parts of the IT department. And it's about time. The amount of manual work that goes into managing storage and backups and archiving seems excessive, even though it may provide job security.

I am constantly amazed at how many things in Storageland have not yet been automated. That's beginning to change. Vendors are constantly upgrading their storage management software to eliminate more of the manual tasks that have been part of the job for many years. Something as simple as moving rarely accessed information to a less-costly tier of storage is something that the system should handle, not a person.

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