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What's In Store For Storage In 2005
With the new year upon us, it's time to stop sipping eggnog and get back to business. Right out of the gate, some key storage technologies are poised for takeoff, and, not surprisingly, they're an alphabet soup of acronyms. But first there are some business issues that bear noting: In particular, the year that just passed was a tough one, notably for the disk-drive segment of the storage business. Price wars wreaked havoc on suppliers of disk drives, all but ensuring an inevitable shakeout. That said, it's still a huge market; sales of disk-based storage systems are projected to hit $23 billion this year, up from $22.4 billion last year.
Here are some things that should be on your radar screen this year:
During the past year, Serial ATA has had a profound impact on the way VARs deploy data-protection solutions. The next iteration of SATA will support such features as native-command queuing, which eases the bottleneck when multiple commands are sent to disk. In addition, SATA II will allow up to 15 disks to be connected to the same port, lowering costs and minimizing the amount of cabling required in an enclosure. And SATA II will support per-port transfer rates of 1.5 Gbps and, ultimately, 3 Gbps.
The move from parallel to serial interfaces will add a new tier of storage that offers higher levels of performance than SATA, but lower costs than high-end disk arrays. Look for serial-attached SCSI to emerge this spring and take off in a big way in 2006, observers say.
Brocade and Hewlett-Packard were the first to announce the shipment of switches that support thoughputs of 4 Gbps, double the network capacity of today's SAN switches. IBM and Brocade also jointly announced 4-Gbps switches as well, and you can bet just about every storage and switch vendor will deliver 4-Gbps wares this year. While the current 2-Gbps standard took only a year to displace 1 Gbps several years back, there's debate as to whether 4 Gbps will have the same transforming effect.
Both achieve the same goal of interconnecting islands of storage over wide area networks, bringing together remote locations. Fibre Channel IP will let companies do so by tunneling Fibre Channel commands over IP networks. iSCSI is similar, but it tunnels SCSI commands over IP. Cisco is betting big that FCIP will reign in the high end, but it remains to be seen how the two will play out. ( A Yankee Group forecast says neither will take off until we see better management tools.)
HP and IBM have already launched new tape systems that support the new Linear Tape-Open 3 standard, which late last year got an added boost by none other than Quantum, which acquired LTO tape drive vendor Certance. LTO3 doubles capacity to 400 GB uncompressed, while the data transfer rate also doubles to 80 MBps. (I'll touch on that more in a future column, but suffice to say, it'll be a hot topic as the year goes on.)
The latest crop of drives are getting smaller. New 2.5-inch drives are an attractive alternative to the current 3.5-inch standard, particularly in rack-mounted systems and blade servers.
Look for key advances from HP, EMC and IBM as islands of storage become enterprise architectures in large IT shops.
Information life-cycle management, though a hyped term, will clearly be the focus of every vendor as customers look to get a better grasp on their data. Whether for compliance reasons or improving customer service, content management will be a key opportunity and should complement any VAR's storage product and professional service offering.
May 2005 bring you gigabytes of opportunity to sink your teeth into.
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