Storage in the sky

Storage in the sky

With a new era of Web 2.0 applications and government data retention regulations coming to the fray, storage capacities are hitting the roof. But concepts such as storage-as-a-service and cloud computing are shaking up the traditional hardware-oriented storage market and raising those boundaries.

Five, four, three, two, one and it's done. It's certainly no magic trick but that's about as many minutes as it can take to completely backup data from a laptop over an Internet connection through a remote storage service. Whenever the data is needed again, presto - it will reappear on demand. And as large organisations continue breaking storage limits, shipping data to an offsite or Internet-based location in this manner is increasingly viewed as a remedy to painful storage swelling.

By 2010 IDC predicts 988 billion gigabytes (or exabytes) of data will be created with individuals accounting for 70 per cent. Of this organisations will need to store about 85 per cent. The development of Web 2.0 applications, digital media and new government regulatory compliance laws - where organisations are required to store data for up to seven years - are some of the factors driving this growth.

As a result, the worldwide market for storage services - including hardware and software support, implementation and management services like outsourcing and managed hosting - will exceed $30 billion by 2009, according to Gartner.

Significantly the analyst firm also believes storage hardware prices will deteriorate at a rate of 30 per cent year-on-year, motivating resellers to adopt or expand their service portfolios to learn a storage-as-a-service routine.

Storage on tap

Yet, storage-as-a-service has a chequered past; it has been tried, tested and failed before, according to IBRS analyst, Kevin McIsaac.

"Early on when vendors were talking about storage-as-a-service what they were effectively offering was, 'let me take your disk drives and put them somewhere else and put a pipe back to your servers'. That was a really huge failure," he said.

"Where it's starting to see a little bit of traction is in what you're actually offering; not the storage-as-a-service as a real raw, lowest level access to a disk type of service, it's where it has been packaged up into something that closely reflects what the consumer of the storage really wants."

As service evolves for the better, on-demand storage services have become more prevalent among mid-market organisations. CEO of storage integrator, XSI Data Solutions, Glenn Gray, claimed remote storage backup had become one of the major topics of discussion with mid-market enterprises.

"Most organisations in the midmarket are running multiple branches and are struggling with controlling their backups and data. The most important information that a company has is their data," he said. "What offices are now looking at is how they can get information from the remote site back into head office to control it better."

But while companies are progressively more interested in these evolving services, in part to reinforce disaster recovery systems, network connectivity is constraining growth.

Amazon and IBM may offer storage services in a cloud, but the challenge is getting from the server to those storage services across the Internet, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) chief technology officer, Simon Elisha, said.

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