Storage Complexity Will Grow With Capacity: Gartner

That's the word from Roger Cox, research vice president at analyst firm Gartner, who outlined many of the storage market drivers and technology changes that will impact data centers through 2013 and beyond.

By 2012, the typical company will install seven times the disk terabytes they did in 2008, meaning that midsize businesses will not be able to solve their storage problems with the technology they have today, Cox said.

"If you think you have complexity today, hold on to your bobby socks," Cox said. "Things are going to get much more complex by 2013."

Changes in business requirements are leading to a boom in the amount of data being stored online and a need for 24x7 operations, Cox said.

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Those infrastructures are being shaped by falling IT budgets, increasing data center power and space costs, increasing government regulations, increasing adoption of cloud-based services, a transition to virtual infrastructures and increasing amounts of unstructured data to be stored, he said.

Cloud storage will be an especially important technology as customers' storage budgets fail to keep up with storage growth, Cox said.

At the very least, they will have to look to the cloud for service providers to do their off-site backups. Those providers could be a combination of in-house clouds, which run inside a company's IT infrastructure, and public clouds, which are outside the infrastructure.

Cloud-based services has replaced ILM (information lifecycle management) as the new storage mantra, Cox said. "This is something you are just going to have to deal with," he said. "Cloud storage is going to happen over the next five years."

Midsize companies can expect technologies considered new today to be pervasive by 2013, Cox said.

These include such technologies as virtual disks, thin provisioning, reservationless snapshots, automated quality of service, support for both Fibre Channel and iSCSI on the same platform and intelligent power management.

These technologies will be available from pretty much any vendor by 2013, Cox said. "When evaluating vendors today for the future, better make sure they have all these things," he said.

Cox also said to expect new technologies considered leading-edge today to be common by 2013 or 2014, including 4-TB SATA hard drives, self-tiering storage from solid state drives through low-cost SATA drives, and the widespread encryption of data on individual storage devices.

SAS drives and the iSCSI protocol will slowly overtake Fibre Channel in the data center, while new protocols such as Fibre Channel over Ethernet will start to be adopted; don't expect Fibre Channel to disappear, Cox said. "Things change slowly in the storage space," he said.

IT organizations will have to look to a new crop of management technologies to handle all the changes expected over the next five years, Cox said. "The big question is, will there be the technology to manage it?"

For instance, he said that storage resource management technology has been talked about for years, but has not yet lived up to its promises.

Another technology, ILM, has been talked about for years as a way to keep mission-critical data available in the highest tier of storage. However, Cox said, what comprises "mission-critical" data varies. "My PC's data is critical to me," he said.

He also cited orchestration, which he called the integration of storage with systems and server management. Orchestration is not yet mature, but is being pushed by companies like Cisco and its Unified Computing System.

The advent of orchestration was one of the main trends that caught the eye Andrea Turek, IT Division manager at Fenton, Mo.-based Joyce Meyer Ministries.

"Orchestration sounds like a good way to enhance the management of the infrastructure, which we really need," Turek said.

Turek said she will also be talking to her staff about the need to push harder on virtualization and to start looking into cloud-based storage.

"We're almost out of power in our data center, so virtualization is important," she said.

Turek, whose company is mainly an EMC shop, said she was surprised when Cox talked about some of the storage vendors and mentioned NetApp as being ahead of EMC in terms of providing the best value storage infrastructure solution and in terms of simplifying the storage infrastructure.

"I'm going to have to tell my guys to look at NetApp in the future," she said.