Storage Execs: Compliance, Life-Cycle Management Hot In '04

"It's a good time to be a storage company. For the next two to three years, I see strong growth for companies that can help customers solve information management problems," said Dave Roberson, president and COO at Hitachi Data Systems. "We expect larger projects with shorter decision cycles.

Compliance is driving a lot of the increased demand, Roberson said.

Government regulations such as HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley require businesses and other organizations to make their data more secure and available for a longer period of time. They will be a bigger boon to the IT industry than Y2K was four years ago, Roberson said.

AMR Research predicts $2.5 billion in spending on Sarbanes-Oxley alone in 2003 and 2004.

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"Y2K was a onetime event, it was one second," Roberson said. "Compliance is not a onetime event. In fact, [government regulations for data] are increasing on a daily basis. The storage requirements associated with that will grow beyond what we have seen the last three to five years. One customer told me they want a 10-year solution. He wants to build it today and he wants it to last for 10 years."

Total Tec Systems is creating packaged compliance solutions that it plans to give to Bell Microproducts to sell to other solution providers, said Paul Collins, vice president of technology at the Edison, N.J.-based solution provider arm of distributor Bell Microproducts.

"We can provide all of the components of certifiable solutions that Bell Micro can get behind and support. For example, if a reseller has a strong service capability, [Bell Micro] can provide the products for them. If [solution providers] don't have those [services] resources, they can buy the delivery component from us," Collins said.

Thus far, most money spent on compliance has been on additional storage capacity. Few customers have scheduled overhauls of their current storage systems, Collins said.

"We've seen more talk than action to date. Everyone recognizes it's an issue, but people are buying more capacity as a short-term solution. We haven't seen fully funded projects to take care of all the aspects of it. The structured solutions are available, but they're not leaping on them yet," he said.

End users are not budgeting full projects because there is no enforcement of the legislation yet, said Andy Pratt, president of Unique Digital, a Houston-based solution provider.

"We have several customers look at it--but because they need to. When they see money for [enforcement], then we'll see some more activity," Pratt said.

Information life-cycle management solutions will most likely be part of a compliance solution, executives said. The solutions involve separating important and often-accessed data from information that is not as relevant.

"It's great way to dialogue with customers. There's so much complexity around managing data around an application and for a longer duration," said Mark Teter, CTO of Advanced Systems Group, a Denver, Colo.-based solution provider.

Information life-cycle management will be a hot topic in 2004, but likely a bigger one in 2005, said Geoff Sinn, CEO of Salem Group, a Winston-Salem, N.C.-based solution provider. "There's still a way to go before anything comes of it," he said. "Full solutions are really expensive. It's one of those things that large companies can undertake, but the solutions for the masses are not there. It's the way things are going, but there's still a ways to go before it's real."