The storage market--especially the storage networking segment--will continue to mature in the year ahead. The server market, in contrast, will look like a rerun of last year--and that's a good thing. Commoditization is rampant, and the result is many servers are almost completely identical, and prices are falling--good news for companies that want to get the most bang for their IT buck.
One indicator of change in the storage air is in the emergence of user organizations-- the Data Management Institute and the Association of Storage Networking Professionals. Both organizations will continue to grow over the next year as they launch programs to assist companies with storage problems.
Anyone with an interest in the future of storage networking technologies should watch them: It's vital that the user community show solidarity in announcing that we will not stand for products that do not fulfill our needs in an open, vendor-neutral manner. This might be a painful message for vendors that have guzzled the extra-large glass of marketing Kool-Aid, but companies that listen to their customers inevitably sell more products.
Speaking of vendors, the storage industry is in the throes of consolidation--a trend that will continue in 2004. Many large players, including Brocade, EMC and McData, are acquiring smaller companies and start-ups with an eye toward expanding their portfolios.
This doesn't mean internal innovation is a thing of the past, it just means that companies with time-to-market concerns will develop more through acquisitions than internally. For example, EMC will continue to expand beyond hardware and get into the larger area of storage software. Previous attempts to reach into multivendor storage management, namely WideSky, have been abandoned in favor of SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) initiatives, and EMC's 2003 acquisitions of Legato and Documentum represent a fundamental shift from a storage-box to software player.