Networked and Virtualized Storage Burgeon
IP storage networks, with the advent of broad support for Internet SCSI (iSCSI) from storage vendors, will continue to bring the storage-networking model to the corporate enterprise. On the plus side, the entry point for network storage will migrate down to the small-to-midsized business (SMB) marketplace, which means that vendors will need to make storage-management tools available in the SMB space at corresponding reduced prices. The movement of iSCSI to the SMB area portends a more widespread acceptance of storage management and, eventually, ILM.

NAS will also continue to grow. Price wars among NAS vendors mean that additional options (e.g., iSCSI, Fibre Channel) will diminish in price as vendors attempt to achieve greater market penetration for their products. Although 4Gbps Fibre Channel switches will soon hit the market at prices comparable to existing 2Gbps switches, the availability of 10Gbps Ethernet switches means that the Fibre Channel-iSCSI battle will only intensify. Of course, customers will benefit from this competition.

Storage virtualization will be grabbing the storage headlines in the coming months. Recent joint product offerings from EMC and Brocade Communications Systems suggest that EMC will be going head to head with Hitachi Data Systems, which has strived to make its TagmaStore switch technologies interoperable with as many storage-market players as possible. A key concept that's still up in the air in this space is whether Fabric Application Interface Standard (FAIS) should be part of the network or part of the switch. EMC favors the network side, and Hitachi Data Systems favors the switch side. The standards committee (the ANSI T11 group) will vote on this key topic sometime this year, and don't be surprised if the relative success of the competitors doesn't play a major role in influencing which way the vote goes.

The storage market will continue to consolidate this year. Although this consolidation might not be on the scale of Symantec's $13.5 billion acquisition of VERITAS, look for storage-hardware vendors to acquire unique software-technology vendors, which will give the hardware companies the means to distinguish their products in the crowded storage marketplace.

2005 Looks Bright for Buyers
2005 looks to be a good year for consumers of high-end storage products. Prices will decrease as competition among vendors intensifies, and the technologies' capabilities will continue to expand, too. Formerly exclusively high-end technologies, such as storage virtualization, will become easily accessible to buyers in the SMB market space. Furthermore, the easy availability of increased storage capabilities to businesses of all sizes will enable greater business productivity at reduced costs.

Capacities Keep Expanding
Advances in form factor and drive densities will be both a blessing and a bane to storage administrators. The current crop of shipping and announced drive products let you pack more than 150TB of storage into a single rack. This means that creating large-scale RAID storage systems is merely a matter of paying for them. Finding room (and support) for multiple large devices is no longer a problem. Given the regulatory issues that businesses face about data availability, such large repositories of online information reduce the immediate demand for nearline and offline storage systems.

Of course, the downside of such huge capacities is that users and applications tend to fill up any available storage. Thus, your need for storage management and for an end-to-end Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) plan will become more acute. You'll also likely need to upgrade your backup system to match your growing storage capabilities.

On the micro side, storage administrators are just coming to terms with the security issues that tiny USB storage keys present. The multigigabyte capacities of these USB keys open the door to data thieves. Furthermore, the expected availability soon of high-density storage devices--hard drives half the size of a business card that can store 20GB or more of data--will simply compound the problem. As the consumer electronics industry pushes for smaller, faster, higher-density drives for use in electronics products, it won't be long before the integrity of your entire business enterprise will be at risk from pocket-sized storage devices whose capacities were available only in server racks just a few years ago. Fortunately, some third-party software products are available to help secure these USB drives.