Al Shugart, 68, who founded Seagate Technology two decades ago - and was fired from his position as CEO last July - helped build the world's first disk drive in 1956 while working at IBM. In 1973, he co-founded Shugart Associates, the company that pioneered the floppy disk. Today, Shugart serves on the boards of several companies and runs Al Shugart International, a venture capital firm in California that he started a month after his ouster from Seagate. Tom Diederich asked Shugart where storage technology is heading.
IDG: In 1995, storage per megabyte cost around 50 cents. Today, it's two cents. What are the implications for information technology management?
Shugart: IT management has always been faced with the same difficulties, and that is making proper use of their storage. It's going to get bigger and bigger and bigger, so whether it's optical or magnetic, I don't think that it makes much difference. The IT challenge is going to remain the same - how do you keep track of all this stuff? And not only now, but also a few years from now, when it's twice as big.
How will we manage it?
Fibre Channel will be the interface of the future between storage and computers. It's a serial interface, it's not that costly, and there's not the same limitation on the distance you can have between your storage and your computer. The ATA interface [used for most PC internal drives] has really been too slow, and so people were using SCSI, which is a parallel interface but a little too expensive and confining. So Fibre Channel is going to be the interface of the future.
Do you see storage-area networks becoming a trend?
Oh sure. And what that means to me, whether it's storage-area networks or network storage - there's all kinds of names people are putting to it - is that you put more intelligence into the disk drive. You put some computer intelligence into the disk drive to take some of the load off the server, and that permits the disk drive to make some decisions.
What's the Internet doing to storage needs?
The Internet is a fantastic catalyst for increased storage. Whether it be magnetic, optical, magneto-optical or even tape, the growth of the Internet is requiring so much storage that it's been a boon to storage companies, regardless of what technology they are in. And that's going to continue. I don't see any stopping that.