StorageWorld held its first ever conference on December 11 in San Jose, California, bringing together storage industry executives, analysts, distributors, resellers, VC firms, and end-user organizations. StorageWorld 2001 attracted high-ranking storage industry executives from storage giants such as Compaq, Dell, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Quantum, Sony, StorageTek, and Sun Microsystems.

Greg Grodhaus, CEO of INRANGE Technologies, gave the keynote address about the growth of storage and its impact on IT departments and organization budgets. Grodhaus began with an intriguing observation from a recent Forrester Research report, which states that by 2003, the roles of servers and CPUs and of storage will be reversed: Whereas  storage is currently thought of as peripheral to the CPU and server, by 2003, CPUs and servers will be peripheral to storage. In addition to ever-increasing storage requirements, Grodhaus cited the critical nature of data as another reason for this metamorphosis: Data is the lifeblood of many organizations, and managing that data must always be a top priority.

Whether you agree with these assertions, it's impossible to deny the growth of storage requirements in modern networks. Grodhaus' address emphasized that today's best storage investment is in Storage Area Networks (SANs) as opposed to Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices or Direct-Attached Storage (DAS). His message isn't surprising when you consider that INRANGE Technologies' consulting services include helping enterprises plan for large-scale SAN deployments. Still, Grodhaus had some interesting supporting facts.

First, he stated that the average IT department can handle 400 percent more storage with SAN than with NAS because of soft costs associated with NAS. Grodhaus estimated that 75 percent of these soft costs consist of IT administration costs incurred in managing the storage infrastructure. Second, he said that SANs benefit from efficiency: Whereas the typical maximum resource use (CPU, memory, and disk) of DAS solutions is around 75 percent, SANs resource use climbs into the 90 percent to 95 percent range. The bottom line is that SANs can provide organizations more bang for their storage buck.

According to Grodhaus, the industry is currently entering the third phase of the SAN lifecycle, where software engineers are designing LAN-free backup and server consolidation applications to take advantage of SANs. He estimated that these applications will be necessary to take SANs and the storage industry into its next phase of evolution.

Grodhaus discussed  several important, emerging storage industry technologies for 2002 and 2003, one of which is storage virtualization. Storage virtualization is a DAS-centric technology that lets you manage storage pools without needing to know specifics of underlying equipment. Storage virtualization provides better scalability, managability, and simplicity (e.g., one backup-and-restore location for an entire network, even a global enterprise). Grodhaus also discussed a related technology called a virtual storage network that does for SANs what storage virtualization does for DAS. Judging from Grodhaus' speech and the number of exhibitors touting storage virtualization products and features at the show, both technologies are likely to play a major role in the next few years.

Another emerging technology includes using SANs to leverage and interoperate with other networking technologies such as Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), Internet SCSI (iSCSI), Internet Fibre Channel Protocol (iFCP), and Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP). SAN-based Quality of Service (QoS) tools are also emerging, including SAN-specific sniffers and analyzers that can communicate with management consoles (e.g., Tivoli, OpenView). Such tools promise to help IT personnel guarantee SAN availability and better manage that availability using familiar tools. SANs are also poised to benefit from emerging optical technologies such as 40Gbps networks-such bandwidth will be essential for the gargantuan SAN environments to come.

Grodhaus concluded by repeating that the corporation of the future needs to own and manage only two things: branding and their information infrastructure. If you take these statements to heart, you might find that SANs play a big part in your future.