Back in the 1970s, storage guru and disk drive pioneer, Alan Field Shugart, noticed the rate of decline of the cost for magnetic storage seemed to accelerate at a steady rate. The cost of storage media seemed to halve every 18 months, he observed. Like Moore's law which suggests the speed of microprocessors would increase at a fixed rate, Shugart's Law suggested storage would also rapidly decline in price, at a fixed rate.
This relationship between price and performance continues to hold, and has been driving demand for ever increasing quantities of storage since disk drives first became available.
Moreover, this decline in price is generally factored into the development cycle of new technologies, creating an ever increasing demand for a commodity whose price is forever falling at a quantifiable rate.
After decades in the storage game, XSI Data Solutions CEO, Max Goldsmith, said businesses assume storage will become ever more available and less expensive. "Everything an enterprise does, all the new software it adopts, generates the need for data storage," Goldsmith said. "Companies have realised that data is in fact their major asset. They are interested in protecting it and getting access to it as quickly and cheaply as possible."
As storage is increasingly commoditised it is also being applied within the enterprise for any number of non-mission critical activities. That is to say, we're storing things we don't need, just because we can.
Intelligent Business Research Services (IBRS) analyst, Kevin McIsaac, said the biggest challenges for organizations lay in figuring out what they have on their systems, and whether or not they need it.
"One of the biggest challenges at the moment is file sharing software and the unstructured data it creates," he said. "In some cases organisations need to focus less on how to store information and more on how to manage the data they have."
However, according to product marketing manager for HP StorageWorks, Mark Nielsen, demand for storage isn't only being driven by emerging technologies. In fact the prime suspect for generating demand for storage is the corporate workhorse: email.
"Email is certainly a big driver for storage," he said. "But we've also got a lot of demand being created by the digitisation of customer records, which often requires the keeping of image data and so forth."
At the same time as demand is increasing, customers are becoming more sophisticated and mature in the way they acquire storage, according to local partner sales director for Sun, Sam Srinivasan. While on the one hand, increased demand and falling prices is resulting in a commoditised market, it's also resulting in some very demanding clients.
"One of the key trends we're seeing is that even though storage requirements are increasing, customers are also getting smarter about how they use storage, and the biggest challenge the industry faces is how to provide those customers with a cost-effective, reliable, and now eco-friendly solution," he said. "They aren't just looking for storage anymore, they are looking at ways to adopt a storage solution that will reduce costs and cut back on power usage at the same time."
While demand was increasing, Srinivasan said complex technologies had become commoditised and affordable.
"When Fibre Channel SANs came out they were very expensive, and very complex, and while they haven't changed much in the last 10 years, the technology has become largely standards driven, so it's cheaper and easier to deploy," he said. "Because they have developed a critical mass in the market you are seeing adoptions in areas we wouldn't have thought possible even a few years ago."