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Where to put it – & why The future for storage sales lies in software and services.

01 Feb 10

The state of play
As digital media usage soars, so too does the need for ways to store it – by 2011 the digital universe will be 10 times the size it was in 2006 (IDC). It seems obvious that the number of storage devices will also increase in direct proportion, giving you augmented sales possibilities, particularly in the ever-popular disk-based storage. The recent contraction in the market, however, has seen global hard disk sales drop, with Gartner predicting they would fall by 11.3% to US$15.9 billion in 2009 (based on the market share statistics for the third quarter of 2009).

Effects of the recession
There is light at the end of the tunnel, however, in the years to come, as Gartner projects that external controller-based (ECB) storage vendor revenue* will increase by 3.4% in 2010, reaching an annual growth rate of 7.5% or $US20.4 billion in 2013, (returning to 2008 levels by 2012), with NAS (network-attached storage) showing the strongest growth.

Gartner’s research shows that the global economic downturn has had a smaller impact on mid-size enterprises’ storage budgets in Asia/Pacific than elsewhere. Seventy-eight percent of Asia/Pacific respondents to a survey claimed their 2009 storage budgets remained the same or increased from 2008, compared with 69% of respondents worldwide. In New Zealand, Terry Dunn, board member of SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and Ingram Micro NZ, General Manager, Server Storage Business Unit, says: “Government and medium businesses, particularly those in growth sectors, have continued to show interest in upgrading their storage area networks (SANs), but there has been less growth than normal for SMBs where organisations are able to manage with their existing resources.”
New technology and opportunities
One of the reasons for this seemingly slower recovery in actual disk sales is the increasingly innovative technology that allows us to reduce the amount or size of the data we are storing.
Gartner highlighted 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel over Ethernet, de-duplication and file systems supporting a global namespace as particularly effective. Evolving needs, as Gartner calls them, will inspire new designs based on enhancements of older technologies, such as solid-state drives and object-based storage. While the actual hardware sales might not meet previous expectations, the total available storage market will expand in line with these new technologies.
Gartner predicts that by 2013, the majority of primary NAS will be de-duplicated, reducing capacity costs by 50%. It further states that primary storage de-duplication is predominantly available today in NAS and file-based products, and this trend will continue. “De-duplication of primary NAS has the potential to reduce storage capacity costs by 33% to more than 85%, depending on recurring bit patterns within blocks of data and the size of the data pools. It has also proved to reduce storage capacity requirements by more than 50% in virtualised server environments when using NFS to support VMware ESX servers,” state Gartner’s researchers  Stanley Zaffos, Vladis Finks and Pushan Rinnen.
These are compelling figures, which help to illustrate the importance of software technologies regarding the storage solutions. Gartner is currently advising enterprise customers to quantify the potential savings of primary storage de-duplication and the operational impacts of changing the ratio of NAS to SAN storage when refreshing their infrastructure. The best way to increase ratios and savings of primary de-duplication is by creating ‘storage pools’ that contain data common to different departments and applications – something that resellers can advise on and build.
Similarly, cloud computing is changing the way storage is bought and used. SNIA’s Dunn says there has been a lot of interest in cloud computing, and the Association thinks this will have a major impact on the IT industry this year as more robust services come to market.
“There has been more focus on the virtualisation of storage to complement virtualised server deployments, and so the rapid acceptance of a virtualised infrastructure has had a major impact on the costs of running data centres, and will be the catalyst to the adoption of cloud,” Dunn adds.
Research analysts Sheila Childs and Adam Couture at Gartner say that by 2013, 50% of organisations with more than 1000 employees will move 80% of their archived data to the cloud. Interestingly, however, organisational acceptance of data archiving in the cloud is most common among small to mid-sized enterprises today. Given that most New Zealand businesses would fall into this latter category, cloud computing will form an important part of the storage equation in 2010, and resellers and systems integrators should be prepared to work with vendors and distributors to package cloud offerings for resale. Gartner’s analysts suggest it’s likely that organisations will look to new vendors, rather than traditional on-premises software product providers, for cloud archiving solutions, so resellers need to be innovative and on the ball. Indeed, the research company recommends that small to mid-sized organisations “look beyond traditional on-premises archive software and hardware vendors to well-established but not widely known cloud archiving service providers”.
As unstructured data in the cloud balloons, organisations will need to figure out a way to deal with it. Gartner predicts that by 2013, object-based storage will be a key technology and suggests that users should “demand that object-based storage vendors use industry-standard protocols to minimise device and vendor lock-in and facilitate easier migration for long-term archiving”.
Solid state drives
Solid state drives (SSDs) has been a buzzword for some time now, and SNIA’s Dunn says that at an industry level “we have definitely seen an increased interest in solid state storage being designed as part of a SAN (storage area network) solution”. In a similar vein, Gartner suggests that all clients involved with enterprise storage “explore and evaluate (but not necessarily adopt) higher-end SSDs as potential storage network accelerators (SNAs)”. However most of us should watch and wait for enhanced SSD controller technology and new storage management software customised for SSDs, the research company suggests.
Integrated solutions
SNIA’s Dunn says storage should be “sold as an integrated solution”.  That is to say, it should be sold as hardware, plus software, plus services. Money can be made out of selling storage this way, he says, but how much “depends on whether the reseller is helping the customer solve a problem, and how much pain they are taking away”. Dunn says some services that can be implemented include presales, capacity planning, implementation, tuning, reviewing set-up and maintenance. Storage hardware requirements are going to continue to increase, albeit dampened by the number of software solutions which will ‘create’ more room for data on the same disk through, for example, clever compression and de-duplication technologies.
Recommendations to end users
The Gartner whitepaper Predicts 2010: New Technologies and Service Delivery Models Will Transform the Storage Markets had the following recommendations for end users, which should give you an idea of the scope of the storage marketplace in the future:
In 2011 and beyond, users should have increasing confidence in the enterprise solid state disk (SSD) solutions offered by a variety of vendors.
CIOs should start evaluating and plan to use the new-generation object-based storage to manage unstructured data in 2010 within their private cloud.
IT personnel responsible for enterprise storage architectures must quantify the potential savings of primary storage de-duplication and the operational impacts of changing the ratio of NAS to SAN storage when refreshing their infrastructure.
Organisations must evaluate the cost models associated with on-premises archiving solutions versus cloud-based solutions in the context of their data preservation and access requirements.
Recommendations to vendors
A user survey undertaken by Gartner in 2009 across Australia, India and China had the following recommendations:
Storage vendors looking for growth opportunities should emphasise the capabilities for backup/recovery, performance and security in their offerings.
However, storage vendors need to fine-tune their go-to-market strategies, because the survey results show that the users have different concerns and interests in these different Asia/Pacific countries.
Given the relatively strong loyalty to existing vendors, especially in China, vendors need to ensure that their customer base is well-treated. From a competitive view, vendors should carefully consider the cost and difficulty of attacking other vendors’ customer bases, and campaigns will need to focus on not only attractive prices, but also programs to easily transition a customer from one vendor to another.

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