Recent national and international events such as Canberra’s disastrous bush fires in January and the great East Coast blackout in the US in August have brought home the importance of secure data storage. They have also highlighted something that is too often overlooked – it doesn’t matter how securely you lock your data away, if you cannot access it quickly and manage it efficiently it is next to useless.
While on paper the storage industry has shown itself to be virtually recession-proof in recent years. The disk storage side of it has been dominated by just a few players — EMC, Hitachi, IBM and HP.
However, the software side has provided a lot more opportunities for a more diverse group of players. While EMC also claims to be the world’s ninth largest software developer, there are a host of other players successfully competing in the market including Microsoft, Veritas, Powerquest, StorageTek among others.
IDC’s director of storage research for Asia/Pacific, Graham Penn, said storage had become the critical repository of any organisation’s data and a key building block of an organisation’s IT infrastructure.
He said that despite the recent business recession, the amount of data that needed to be stored and managed continued to grow, requiring new investments in storage systems.
Overall, 14,480TB of new storage capacity was expected to ship in Australia this year, an increase of 43.6 per cent over shipments in 2002. He expected new capacity to rise almost 50 per cent a year so that by 2007 the total would be 73,650 TBs — “an immense amount of storage that will need to be effectively managed”. At the beginning of the year, IDC predicted network storage would be one of the top 10 technologies in 2003 and that is proving to be the case.
EMC marketing director, Clive Gold, said it had taken just four years for network storage to account for 25 per cent of the storage market. It was predicted that within two years it would be the dominant form of storage.
“The move to network storage is in the enabling plumbing,” he said. “Once you get on to a network storage environment you have the ability to apply some very smart software. The shift from captive or directly attached storage to network storage allows you to consolidate and use more of your storage, giving you a cost saving and allowing you to use a bunch of tools that simplify the environment.”
He said the industry was moving from automated network storage to something called information life-cycle management in which data could be dynamically prioritised through its life cycle.
The cost of storage area networks is dropping and the cost of applying intelligent software is falling significantly.
Gold said there were plenty of opportunities opening up for the channel particularly in the area of storage management.
“There’s a lot of confusion about what storage management is and a lot of people have tried to convince companies that it is all about back-up,” he said. “But that is not right.”
Gold said there were many parts to it, from having a secure copy and how you get access to it, to infrastructure management and operational efficiency.
“There are a bunch of opportunities for the channel,” he said.
Veritas, which according to the latest IDC figures has almost a 70 per cent market share by revenue of the worldwide file share system market, did about 95 per cent of its business in Australia through channel partners.
Senior technical architect, Simon Elisha, said storage management was heading toward the utility computing model, which allowed customers to manage storage across complex, multi-platform and multi-vendor environments.
This in turn allowed them to reduce their storage management costs by using the storage facilities they already have.
”Utility computing means that you can deliver applications with better service levels and at lower costs,” he said.
“More value for less money means a quicker return on your investment.”
Powerquest regional director for Australia and New Zealand, Greg Wyman, said the market for back-up and disaster recovery had evolved and matured rapidly over the past few years.
“For example, we see a market shift from organisations using traditional back-up products to next-generation solutions,” Wyman said. “Traditional back-up software has some inherent issues that almost every company faces. It is complex, unreliable, and expensive.
“Core issues that almost every user faces include the four to 10 hours it takes to rebuild a crashed Windows server, long back-up windows, wasting hours trying to restore individual files or folders, and the expense of adding on agents and options to protect databases and open files. But probably one of the most severe problems — if a Windows server crashes at 4:15pm — with traditional back-up software, the company will spend hours rebuilding the server and lose a complete day’s worth of data. That impacts on everybody who has saved files to that server. Imagine 300 users being told at 9am the next morning that all their work yesterday has been lost? Now that is painful.”
Storage management software reseller, StorageTek, recently surveyed more than 65 medium and large Australian enterprises and found that almost 70 per cent of them were using, planning to implement or investigating storage resource management tools.
While the survey result may be slightly skewed — the survey was conducted among companies registering for a special edition of StorageTek’s Let’s Talk storage briefings — it did highlight concerns over how organisations managed their growing storage demands.
StorageTek managing director, Philip Belcher, said organisations were still trying to come to terms with the data explosion.
“Despite static storage budgets they must meet growing storage demands and improve their storage infrastructures,” he said. “Storage resource management tools give organisations the detailed measurement and trend information they need to achieve this.
“The initial drivers for SRM (storage resource management) concern the manageability of storage growth — how much capacity do I need, when do I need it, who is going to want it and how do I deploy it easily. Managing the storage and its costs once deployed are still concerns, but of lesser interest.
“Interestingly, there seems to be good awareness of the value SRM tools offer in tracking and managing back-ups. SRM is not only about managing disks on storage area networks (SANs). It’s about measuring and monitoring NAS, DAS, tape libraries, back-up/recovery software, databases and volume managers as well.”
Belcher said that what was most surprising about the survey results was that companies didn’t rate change control and interoperability as highly as resource management.
“This could be because organisations have already implemented them via some other means — or perhaps they don’t see these as functions of SRM,” he said
This apparent awareness among companies of the need for storage management coincided with a recent warning from the Meta Group which suggested that the lack of robust storage management automation, standards, and process maturity would limit net annual enterprise storage capacity growth to 45 per cent (58 per cent to 67 per cent gross procurement), through to 2006.
In a Meta report on infrastructure and enterprise data centre strategies, Rob Schafer, said that to effectively leverage and manage enterprise media assets, users would require a data/media centre of excellence.
“Through 2007, software value-added functionality, manageability, integration, and interoperability will be the primary enterprise storage differentiators, rendering storage hardware a tiered commodity,” he said. “Users should focus on leveraging high-capacity storage subsystems with scalable, ‘good enough’ performance.”
Schafer said more effective utilisation of storage subsystems would help lower incremental storage costs, yielding a quicker, more competitive return on investment. However, users must balance raw capacity utilisation against performance and manageability trade-offs.
While the debate over how best to manage the data boom continues, the importance of the growing storage industry in Australia has been recognised with the formation of an Australia and New Zealand branch of the Storage Network Industry Association as a regional affiliate of the international body.
SNIA’s arrival should provide even greater opportunities for the channel as one of its main purposes will be to promote storage networking technologies as complete and trusted solutions.
The interim board of SNIA ANZ consists of EMC, HP, Imation and Markom Marketing, and its local founding members include Computer Associates, Hitachi, IBM, Infinity, Iomega, Legato, Network Appliance, Quantum, Sun and Veritas.
A charter of documents have been produced which spell out how SNIA ANZ would develop educational and marketing programs to promote the use of storage networking solutions by vendors, developers and integrators working together. SNIA ANZ spokesman Andrew Manners, who is also HP’s general manager for enterprise storage, said one of the primary objectives of the local organisation would be to give consistent messages to users and address their concerns for greater simplicity and flexibility in storage management.
IDC’s Penn said users would definitely benefit from the massive investment made in education and standards in storage networking.
“Our recent research shows there is a big move towards storage systems accessed over a network,” he said. “While the overall storage market declined in the second quarter of 2003, the networked storage segment grew by a massive 7.5 per cent to $US1.78 billion, with particular emphasis on SANs. The SNIA ANZ will assist users in an accelerated adoption of this technology. It is an industry coming of age.”