In February, EMC hosted its first Enterprise Wizards conference, at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center. The conference attracted 3000 attendees, about half of whom were EMC folks. Cosponsored by Oracle and Microsoft, the well-run conference offered good technical content. I had expected this conference to grow substantially over the next few years, but the conference organizer tells me that EMC is more likely to replicate the experience worldwide.

Some interesting news came up in the keynote addresses, not the least of which is that EMC has shipped a Symmetrix system with 180GB disk drives and a total capacity of 70TB. This event might put EMC back in the lead for the largest single storage server sold, a lead that Hitachi/Hewlett-Packard (HP) held recently. EMC's keynote also revealed the road map for disk, which the company expects will go to 500GB within 24 months. (It doesn't seem all that long ago that I attached a 20MB disk to a Macintosh and thought it was a big deal.)

Attendees heard about EMC's commissioned study at the University of California at Berkeley to measure the amount of information people have created throughout recorded time. The study found 12 exabytes of unique content (print, film, optical, and magnetic) in the world today. The study shows an exponential growth of stored information, which really took off over the past few years. The Internet, digital imaging, and, of course, larger storage systems are fueling the terrific growth of stored data. The study predicts than in the next few years we will create and store more information that in the previous thousands of years. or more information, see EMC's press release about the study and the study itself. The study authors and EMC predict a "big bang" of information and required storage in the next 3 to 4 years, which will drive the storage vendor community.

Many storage stocks recently took a hit when some Wall Street analysts downgraded the sector, but to some degree they were judging the storage marketplace by such factors as a host bus adapter (HBA) company's (i.e., Emulex's) missed performance numbers. EMC also announced that it expected slower growth rates next year, but the company is noted for setting expectations conservatively.

In fact, EMC is in hiring mode, going from roughly 15,000 to 30,000 people. (The company did let go 5 percent of its staff recently, reportedly for performance reasons.) As I've mentioned in a previous Storage UPDATE, EMC intends to spend $12 billion in storage software R&D over the next 4 years. And storage software is the key; everything else is just disk, a commodity item. That $12 billion is the total run rate of several of EMC's largest storage competitors and partners, and I'm currently trying to discover how the company intends to spend it.