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Stoking The Storage Machine

Wichita, Kan., used to manage only static data, mainly text. That is, "until we implemented document imaging and digital cameras," says Kevin Norman, the city's IT operations manager. Those two new technologies alone have caused a steady increase in the demand for storage capacity. "They drove our storage requirements up to levels we hadn't seen before," Norman says.

Not only that, business as usual has caused its own headaches. Every government worker stores a little more data than he or she used to, and outside parties make more storage demands, too. For instance, vendors send in drawings for project consideration online.

In response, Norman next year will oversee a conversion of 6 terabytes of storage capacity from a Hewlett-Packard direct-attached-storage framework that uses 80 servers to a storage area network, for increased performance and more-efficient management. Norman hasn't yet decided which vendor will provide the SAN, he says.

After at least three years of spending cuts and spiraling markets, real increases in storage capacity are a major industry trend for 2004, according to users and analysts. Another trend, storage-management automation --for some, the Holy Grail of storage technology--will become real and begin to remove some of the storage burden from customers. A third trend, regulatory compliance-driven storage demands, will join with the desire for more-efficient storage media to create a real addition to the storage infrastructure, known as information life-cycle management. Finally, a protocol for running blocks of data across Ethernet networks will be relegated to low-end requirements.

Customers have spent the last three years burning up the storage capacity they created for year 2000 contingencies, says John Webster, an analyst at market research firm Data Mobility Group. "People in 2004 should be purchasing new storage for the first time in a while," he predicts.

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