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Information Strategist: Fixing Storage Before It Fixes Us

A couple of years ago, a smart guy from then StorageTek, Rob Nieboer, concluded a presentation about business data growth with a sanguine observation. Because of the inefficient way storage is packaged, he noted, coupled with the inefficient way consumers use storage, the cost of storage infrastructure would eventually bankrupt many businesses.

That gem of wisdom has stayed with me ever since--and it should be on the minds of many IT strategists today.

Despite the news about terabyte-sized SATA drives coming this spring, despite advances in archiving technology to help cull the older data that fills our storage "junk drawers" to the brim, and despite advances in compression and deduplication technologies that are now being released in the form of specialty software or appliances, the unmanaged growth of data isn't going away soon. Like death and taxes, data growth is inevitable, meaning so, too, is storage growth.

Bigger drives, however, don't address the cost conundrum. While it's true that disk capacity has doubled every 18 months since the early 1990s, and that the cost per GB has concurrently decreased by 50 percent each year, this hasn't translated into lower overall storage costs. Understanding that the component parts are becoming commodities, most array vendors seek to grow their margins with new "value-add" features and functions for their controllers. The result has been a steady increase in the price of an enterprise array, cheaper drives notwithstanding.

"Value-add" is an interesting thing. In a visit to a large enterprise storage consumer late last year, the complaint registered by a storage administrator was telling: "The vendor places a lot of software on the box. We have to pay licenses for 100 percent, but we only use about 10 percent. We replace a lot of the functionality with best-of-breed software from third-party software houses because it works better for us." Because of the way storage is packaged and sold, we buy more functionality than we need and use only a fraction of what we buy. So, where's the "added value"?

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