Once again, as we do at six- or 12-month intervals here at eWEEK, we offer a snapshot of important continuing trends in data storage. These are based upon daily conversations with storage vendors, analysts, data center managers, CIOs and CTOs.
New products involving storage pooling, data tiering, disaster recovery, deduplication, thin-provisioning, capacity management and a slew of others are coming into the market from established companies and newbies alike.
Storage media, including spinning disk hard drives, solid-state NAND and NOR Flash, digital tape, and optical disks, continue to become more capacious as engineers and manufacturers improve upon improvements. Markedly better networking and processing speeds are also instrumental in these product upgrades.
Here are the most important enterprise storage trends at mid-year 2010, as seen by eWEEK:
Storage pooling: Pooling is an approach to storage virtualization that delineates specific areas of the storage system to be dedicated to specific data flows to enable more efficient multitenant service deployments, for example.
"Storage pooling can be set up as to disk type, where capacity can be in either 1TB or 2TB drives in separate pools," Sepaton executive Jay Kramer told eWEEK. "Customers might want to implement a pool based on WORM [write once, read many] storage technology, or for encrypted data, for example."
Virtualized storage systems break files into chunks of data that are dispersed into numerous data center or storage locations, and reassemble them on demand. Keeping data file chunks closer together in pools is said to provide faster reassembly of file chunks.
Two key points turn up time and time again in conversations, especially involving cloud storage services: If you keep the data as close to processors as possible, and keep data chunks as close together as possible, and you invariably end up with notable performance gains.
Isilon -- which specializes in large, clustered systems -- and Sepaton are two of the early vendors shipping smart-pooling storage systems.
Tier 1 deduplication: Deduplication, clearly the most in-demand storage feature for the past three to four years, has been used primarily in second-tier SATA-type arrays and not for primary (Tier 1) business-critical data storage. Tier 1 "dedupe" at the gateway, however, is beginning to get attention as a useful system addition.
The trend now is for "smart" -- or content-aware -- storage systems to not even allow data it already knows is redundant into the storage system from the get-go. Tier 1 dedupe makes a fast determination about whether the document or data bit stays or is left at the door.
Data deduplication, one of the most important breakthroughs in IT in the last two decades, eliminates redundant data from a disk storage device in order to lower storage space requirements, which in turn lowers data center power and cooling costs and lessens the amount of carbon dioxide produced to generate power to run the hardware.
OEM providers Permabit and Nexenta are new-generation storage vendors that are shipping Tier 1 deduplication.
Automated data tiering: Again, new content-aware systems -- such as those from Compellent, Xiotech, Permabit, Sepaton, NetApp, Promise, and a few others -- that can automatically send unstructured data and documents into appropriate tiers of storage without human intervention are impressing people. This includes archiving.
Policy-driven auto-tiering is something we'll be hearing more about later this year and beyond.
Virtualization of isolated and formerly siloed storage systems: This trend started with testing and quality assurance work back in the mid-2000s but continues to trend up. Many of these siloed systems -- especially in larger enterprises -- are still in transition, but industry analysts now estimate that some sort of virtualization is now being used in production in nearly 90 percent of all enterprise IT systems. In 2008 that percentage was in the low 20s.
Cloud backup -- including archival -- storage: This one shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. Small and medium-size businesses, departments of large enterprises, and single consumers alike continue to sign on in increasing numbers to services such as Amazon S3, CommVault, Asigra, iDrive, EMC Mozy, Carbonite, Box.net, Iron Mountain Digital, Seagate i365, and others.
Microsoft is now marketing its SkyDrive, and Google is in the process of launching its own Gdrive service. Amazon S3 is the current market leader in business online storage.
An increasing number of new laptops and netbooks are featuring a pre-install that includes online backup and virus protection. EMC is providing this with its Atmos service for Iomega desktop storage drives.