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Thoughts on the Future of Storage
Rajeev Chopra


Alvin Ow is Regional SE Manager, Asia South, VERITAS Software. He is responsible for providing consultancy and technical advice to customers on achieving the highest level of data availability. VERITAS Software is the leading provider of data availability software solutions that ensures continuous information availability for customers to protect and access their business-critical information.

The influx of new technologies and initiatives in the e-business market will result in an explosion of data and information loads. The challenge for storage management providers now is delivery of innovative solutions

According to University of California at Berkeley, world data will double over the next two and a half years, and personal Terabyte storage will be with us by 2005. Given these statistics, there is no doubt that the need for storage will continue at the incredible pace we see today. As the quantity of storage goes up, the need to manage storage increases.

We will need new paradigms to deal with the quantity of data out there. While bandwidth is rising, the requirements will continue to push it to the limit. Therefore, we will see increasing replication of data to ensure that it is in the right place at the right time--all the time.

Availability will continue to be the watchword. If your data isn't there, then it doesn't matter how much hardware you throw at the problem, it won't help. The way forward is having flexible software solutions that can evolve with the company's applications.

Curbing hardware storage costs - the SAN
Previously enterprise storage just involved a server with (attached) storage. Now you have a SAN fabric interconnect which is attached to a large number of servers and to larger numbers of storage devices.

Utilizing SANs (Storage Area Networks) effectively can help companies to curb their hardware storage costs. In a SAN storage is available wherever and whenever it is needed, without being physically moved.

Other technologies such as clustered file systems and clustered volume managers will have new software applications that will make them more scalable and resilient to failure. By creating these technologies in software, customers won't have to purchase expensive proprietary hardware, thereby bringing the benefits to all.

SANs also bring about another set of interesting management issues that need to be addressed. The most basic of which is the automatic discovery of devices attached to them. SAN management products now address this problem and allow servers to utilize new storage devices when they are plugged into the network without having to be rebooted and to discover the devices for themselves. Management tools like these are essential in order to make SANs practical in large or even medium-sized environments.

Developments in the storage product market
In the short to medium term, we will continue to see the business market place continue grow, with an increasing demand for clustered applications, wide area replication and failover.

The backup market will continue to grow because of increasing data and companies are increasingly banking on it. However, we will see new methods for carrying out backup and restoration with the primary aim of speeding up the process. Technologies like storage checkpoints will enable customers to backup more applications on-line and quickly restore from failures and logical corruption. Replication will grow, with more companies pushing their data out to be nearer to their customers and outlying offices.

There will be changes in storage density too (roughly doubling every year) especially for removable media used in laptops. Laptops have traditionally been neglected when it comes to corporate backup strategies although they often hold the company's most critical data. Backup technology has progressed to the point where you can backup a laptop over a modem line whenever users log on to retrieve their mail. The introduction of the Terabyte disk in laptops will thus be a welcome addition.

The advent of SANs is an indication that connectivity and throughput of storage technology has increased dramatically. This has also resulted in a new focus on security. While it is good that all servers can see all storage on the SAN, it may not be required from a security or bandwidth perspective. The SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and other bodies are pushing ahead with standards to ensure that security isn't compromised.

While the speed in access time has increased, it is still not enough in some cases and so, replication will be used to move the data nearer to users. With this comes another set of management issues. While you may have multiple copies of the data on the network, do you want to back every one of them up? Are the copies up to date? Therefore, the management of replication services will be important and should be integrated in order to use it efficiently.

With the introduction of new handheld devices (some with wireless capability), we see people having instant access to great amounts of data, carrying some of that data around with them, modifying it and then sending it back. Replication is a mechanism to get the data nearer to the user. Synchronization technologies will also be required to enhance the efficiency of usage. Administrators are able to monitor the state of their systems and storage and carry out simple administration tasks without having to go into the office.

Software will be the key driver in the storage market. Developers who create applications that run on multiple OSs (Operating Systems) in a consistent manner, will be winners. By creating applications that run on popular hardware, costs are reduced since these are consistent in multiple platforms like Windows NT/Windows 2000, HP-UX and Solaris. The need for storage and application availability experts will grow, but they won't have to be OS specialists.

Storage and the individual user
Worldwide, terabyte shipments increased from 36 Petabytes in 1998 to 302 Petabytes in 2000 registering an 86 percent CAGR as reported by IDC. So, what's going to make it continue to grow? Replicated data and an individual's personal use of films and music will be the main contributing factors.

Companies will continue to use Web-based training, which will become more sophisticated with audio and video becoming the norm. In addition, standard company data will continue to grow at ever increasing rates, supplying companies with information for making better tactical and strategic decisions. For individuals, video-on-demand will finally come of age and this data will be pushed (replicated) to their home systems.

The individual will be the one whose storage requirements will change the most. They will have increasing quantities of data shipped to them at home for personal use, along with data for them to carry out their jobs. Telecommuting will become more common, with the assumption that the employee can be as efficient at home as in the office. For many employees, this has not been practical since they do not have access to the required data, and there is so much of it.

Companies will see their infrastructure change to new working ways and a storage architecture. Applications will change as well to make the best use of the storage architecture and accommodate the new ways of working with replicated data and remote users.

Storage service providers
Storage service providers have become more prevalent over the past 18 months or so. Security is becoming an issue along with efficient use of their hardware. As storage matures into a service environment, the providers will need to change to accommodate enterprise and individual needs. Those that do not adopt the new technologies will lose out to those that do. Efficient backups and restoration, storage checkpoints, replication and clustering will all have to be employed to ensure that the customers data is always there whenever they need it.

Resellers will always have a place in the market, but we will see changes in the way that they operate. Total solutions will be sold with both hardware and software packaged together. With the release of new products, it is up to the reseller to install new components as and when needed, so as to ensure that their customers keep up with the game.

The influx of new technologies and initiatives in the e-business market will result in an explosion of data and information loads. The challenge for storage management providers now is their delivery of innovative solutions that will ensure high levels of reliability, availability and performance for companies to compete effectively in this heterogeneous global environment. It will be interesting to see how things will eventually turn out.

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