By all accounts, 2008 was the year storage virtualization graduated from the University of Testing & Quality Assurance and matriculated into the real world of business production.
Industry researchers Forrester, IDC, Gartner, Enterprise Strategy Group and The Yankee Group have all reported that virtual machines -- whether used for storage, operating systems, enterprise applications or databases -- are now in production in 75 percent of all IT systems. It's been a fast ascent; 18 months ago that number was around 25 percent.
Looking ahead to 2009 with its recessionary complications, indications are that virtualization in all its forms will help the next 12 months become IT's Year of Finding More Efficiency. In data storage, this means finding and utilizing as much disk capacity as can be identified to make best use of existing hardware and software, so that costs can be contained.
In many cases, this means IT managers will be utilizing new capacities previously untouched by storage controllers -- places such as Web, database and application servers that previously were single-purpose machines.
It's getting crowded in the storage array neighborhood. The creation and flow of digital information in all of its formats continues to pick up momentum. Thousands of Web pages pop onto the Internet every minute. E-mail, text and instant message documents are written and saved by the thousands every second. Financial service and retail sales records are filling up databases. Photos, music files and video streams are pouring into storage coffers from PCs, desktops, servers and handheld devices at an ever-increasing pace.
More capacity for all this digital data must keep coming online to serve as the backstop for this explosion. Enterprises and consumers alike continue to invest in storage hardware and software, although the numbers crunchers are getting nervous. Nonetheless, most storage providers are in the pink, while a number of other IT product and service vendors are seeing red.
Still a Relatively Bulletproof Sector at This Time
Last year's quarterly financial reports bear it out: Recession or no recession, the most economically bulletproof sector of the IT business is data storage and its immediately peripheral subsectors, including disaster recovery, e-discovery and deduplication software.
Will this continue in 2009? Industry experts are near-unanimous in their assessment: Yes, the flow of data will continue to increase, despite a general slowdown in business, and yes, storage and storage-related IT products and services will continue to remain in demand for the near and long term.
Trends in the data storage business in 2009 are pretty well defined. Here are the key ones as eWEEK sees them:
--Virtualized storage and any other IT product that reduces costs will be in demand.
--Automation of virtualized resources will become more strategic to the success of enterprises. "Efficiency" is the operative term here.
--Storage and services in the cloud will move beyond the talk/testing stage and get into regular production, most likely later in the year.
--A new generation of mainframes is well-positioned as the default "security blanket" for IT organizations.
--Green IT data center strategies will continue to be deployed -- spurred first by cost savings, and secondly by environmental purpose.
Let's examine each of these in more detail.