March to consolidation

The storage industry right now is marching on towards consolidation. IDC estimates that consolidating access and data management into a single location can slash storage management costs by up to 70 per cent.

At the same time there has been a flurry of virtualisation software offerings but this technology has miles to go before its promises will be kept. Virtualisation software holds out the hope of making disk space on different servers appear as a single storage pool, to be dipped into and divvied up as needed across the network.

But at the same time, the once-stunning profits from storage hardware sales and the future of proprietary or closed storage architectures are getting squeezed out.

The storage industry is sliding fast down the slope of hardware commoditisation, sending vendors scrambling for new ways to make money as old business models slip away. Sales of disk storage fell from $US17.4 billion in 2001 to $13.3 billion last year, according to IDC.

That sales decline also reflects the steadily dropping price of a megabyte of storage, which has plummeted at least 40 per cent in the past few years. Meta Group predicts that while storage-related costs will constitute 70 to 80 per cent of server purchases through 2004, storage hardware sales will decline 30 per cent or more as the emphasis shifts to software, services and storage-area networks (SAN).

As this spending shift accelerates, so too will the migration toward open architectures and standards

Last week the Storage Networking Industry Association last (SNIA) unveiled specifications for its long-anticipated Bluefin technology.

This open management software interface standard — designed to help users apply central controls to enterprise-wide SANs — already has the backing of dozens of storage vendors, including IBM, EMC, Hitachi, Sun and Veritas Software. Renamed as the Storage Management Initiative, or SMI, this specification is the storage industry’s first giant step toward an interoperability standard.

Users should lean hard on their storage vendors to incorporate this emerging standard in future products.

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