Amid tentative signs that the economy is trying to emerge from its worst downturn in
more than 50 years, data storage industry analysts, vendors and financiers gathered last
week at the BD Event in Boston to offer their
thoughts on where the storage and IT industries are headed in the year ahead.
Storage and IT luminaries recently gathered to discuss the future. The consensus? Cloud and virtual environments will dominate.
IT sales growth is a fraction of what it was a decade ago, and users are intent on
keeping it that way by wringing every last bit of efficiency out of their IT
In keeping with that spirit of doing more with less, virtualizationand the cloud were the
top trends identified by show attendees.
“Virtualization used to be all about the low-hanging fruit, where server consolidation
and cost management were the drivers,” said John Gavin of Akorri. “Now it’s really all
about simplifying management and managing performance issues when in mission-critical
Data centers are moving more and more from the constraints of physical devices and to
a comprehensive model. Now they’ve moved on to the second stage – the virtualization of
applications like Microsoft SharePoint, e-mail and CRM. Some companies have even moved
onto stage three, with virtualization in multiple layers, combining server and storage
virtualization to create large storage pools and then virtually allocating capacity as
Yet many IT organizations are struggling with two worlds: a physical world that is not
yet completely virtualized combined with new applications purchased under a mandate that
unless they can go on virtual machines, the
purchase must be justified.
Data centers have inherited tools from the physical world to manage different
problems, and now have to contend with point solutions to manage virtualized
environments. New tools are coming on the market to manage ever-increasing storage pools
and the expanding layers that virtualization creates. In the next year, IT managers will
see more comprehensive virtualization infrastructure management software, from single
vendors or open sourced, designed to watch applications, pinpoint diagnostics, and
remediate issues across heterogeneous environments.
Complexity and cost are driving different points of control across different layers of
storage. Organizations with remote offices may need centralized backup, restore
capabilities to remote offices, and cloud archival capabilities. Tony Cerqueira of Cofio
Software sees end-to-end management of active information as a theme of future business
processes, offering a way to combine different operations and provide a single point of
control for data.
The focus in the virtualized world will continue to be on smart management and cost
reductions, according to Clive Surfleet of Blade Network Technologies. New infrastructure
tools like switch modules that fit into existing blade server/rack environments can help
existing bandwidth scale while minimizing cost and lay the foundation for a rack-level
network infrastructure that can cost-effectively provision and scale out virtualized data
centers, Web 2.0 environments, and high-performance computing clusters.
A Cloudy Future
While pundits believe that the cloud will be a part of almost every data center, just
what the cloud is remains a bit obscure. John Rotchford of Strategic Advisory Services
International sees cloud as “back to the future” – going back to a mainframe environment
of one computing infrastructure in a cloud, distributed but simplified. Clouds can also
be seen as “on-demand services,” a computing resource that is scalable on demand over the
network, or a way to get around an IT department and get a project moving – a business
customer’s dream but a potential IT nightmare.
User-generated content continues to cast a bigger digital shadow, and the next year
will continue to see the rapid growth of unstructured data, the need to store larger
files, and an even greater impact from industries like healthcare and finance. The
premise that the cloud offers better access at lower cost still needs to be tested,
especially with data that has business value. Nevertheless, IT managers with an eye on
their competitors would be wise to examine cloud solutions.
Nirvanix’s Jim Zierick envisions the cloud as a storage delivery network. He sees use
cases for the cloud in the data center that include offsite data protection, tiered
storage, distributed content and collaboration as a hub to share data, and embedded
storage. The bright future of the cloud, according to Zierick, is in cloud-enabled
partner applications, including the ability to store user documents and use polices to
manage backup, disaster recovery and the number of copies offered in a secure, available
and easily managed storage environment.
John Bantleman from Clearpace sees a new use for cloud storage as something of a data
escrow device – keeping a copy with a third party to ensure availability and use for
reporting. Cloud appliances are also popping up for download and storage of database
information and the ability to disseminate for queries on usage scenarios of how cloud
storage is being used.
Clouds have the potential to change everything – they already have for consumer-driven
applications, and while not so fast, clouds are changing the behavior of the enterprise,
said Rotchford. Even though there is still confusion and debate among the providers,
there will be on-demand services that work.
Adoption of new technologies takes years, although the cycles are compressing, said
Tony Asaro of the INI Group. He contrasted the 44 years for cars to reach 25 percent
adoption in the U.S. compared to seven years for the Internet. Asaro doesn’t see
companies moving all their IT resources into the cloud any time soon. They will continue
to do their “bread and butter” applications by buying infrastructure and owning it
themselves, but will use clouds to augment and enhance their operations.
Right now, there is solid near-term adoption of clouds in emerging markets, startups
and SMBs, said Rotchford, and by 2013 they will be in the enterprise. Rotchford bets on
internal clouds as the eventual enterprise winner, with external clouds used for
non-critical applications. And one day the clouds will separate, with the term cloud even
fading away over the next 10 years.
Follow the Money
So where is industry headed? While no one could agree on the “next big thing,” merger
and acquisition experts agreed that historic products and markets will continue to
dominate, but the next decade will bring more consolidation of big companies into even
bigger companies. On the other hand, while big companies will “eat” new companies and buy
their way into new markets, the power of the entrepreneur is still strong even in this
recession, especially when looking at new technologies and business. IT managers would be
wise to watch the “new guys” who capitalize on opportunities to disrupt the big guns and
have the potential to grow to dominate a market.
The industry is paring back, and potential is always tied to funds, the panel
cautioned. Especially in today’s economy, cash is the oxygen not only for startups, but
also for existing companies. Economies are so intertwined that events halfway around the
world can create serious ramifications at home. IT managers and their companies need to
look at their vendors with a new perspective. “Companies who do not have a global focus
will fail,” said Andrew Williamson of Alexander Durham.
Change will occur either by force or by design, said Asaro. To be successful, IT
professionals must “balance their left- and right-brain thinking,” he said, citing an
example where a company needed to open up access to users but was limited by physical
servers. The IT manager used virtualization to put up 30 different applications for users
“Keeping the lights on is number one, but if companies go out of business, the lights
will go off,” Asaro concluded. “Nothing is more strategic than revenue, so IT should
focus on how to generate revenue and increase profitability.”
Article courtesy of Enterprise Storage Forum