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Issue of September 2005 

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No matter where, no matter what

Simplify, simplify.

—Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), US philosopher, author, naturalist.

Time was when taking care of a company’s storage was as simple as hooking up a RAID box to your server. Then came the TLAs—NAS, SAN and what have you—all of which ended up turning the average corporate data centre into an unwieldy mishmash of differing technologies. Then there’s the problem that storage is basically dumb. Your disk array doesn’t know the difference between an e-mail message and a cached Web page.

Applications are responsible for churning out mountains of data, so wouldn’t it be nice to manage storage from an application-centric perspective?

All of this leads to a bunch of technologies that attempt to simplify storage management and deliver application-specific storage. Simpler storage entails the ability to centrally manage all your storage, be it NAS, SAN or even DAS, as one resource. That’s easier said than done, though work is on to create software that can virtualise all your storage boxes and give you that unified view.

Meanwhile, application-specific storage is doing better. E-mail archiving’s already out in the market, and it’s incredibly useful for the modern corporation with gigabyte mailboxes and all that valuable project-related correspondence captured on e-mail. Other application-specific storage solutions are entering the market, and over time it should matter less and less what kind of storage you have. What’ll count is whether your storage is application-oriented.

So what’s ahead?

I’m going out on a limb here and predicting that virtualisation will happen in a year or two. There’s just too much demand for this feature for vendors to ignore it. Today, the benefits of virtualisation, such as they are, are limited to the SAN. That has to change and the virtualisation mechanism should be able to store data on SAN, NAS or tape for that matter, based on the kind of data or application that generated it.

IBM’s updated SAN File System virtualisation software that includes support for tape systems is a step in this direction. Every vendor’s on the virtualisation path, be it EMC, NetApp, HDS, Sun or IBM. The trend is to support hardware from other vendors through virtualisation.

The bottom line is that sales of storage software are outracing those of hardware. The winner in all this is going to be the user.

Prashant L Rao
Head of Editorial Operations

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