Acquisitions Rule in Storage

Updated: Changes in the vendor landscape marked storage this year, and will affect technical innovation for years to come.

In the storage world, 2005 wasnt a landmark year in terms of technical innovation. However, many of the company acquisitions that occurred this year will affect the storage market for many years to come.

At the close of the year, Seagate Technology Inc.s $1.9 billion deal for Milpitas, Calif.-based Maxtor followed its September acquisition of data management and backup vendor Mirra Inc. By acquiring Maxtor, Seagate eliminated one of its fiercest competitors and put itself in a good position going into the future.

With the combined research and manufacturing resources of Seagate and Maxtor, Seagate should be able to find ways to expand storage density, while reducing manufacturing costs.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read more about Seagates Maxtor grab.

But there were other companies outside of the usual suspects that made moves to improve their position in the storage market.

Sun Microsystems Inc.s $4.1 billion purchase of StorageTek was a clear statement that Sun is ready to make big investments to become a force in the storage industry.

But, even before word of the acquisition got out, Sun was working hard on making storage more efficient and easy to manage. A clear example of this is its CIS (Content Infrastructure System) solution, which I tested during the summer.

CIS combines hard drive- and tape-based storage with Suns QFS (Quick File System) and SAN (storage area network) file system technologies—the result is a powerful turnkey archive system.

The big negative about CIS that I mentioned in my review is that it is not compliance-ready because it lacks WORM technology.

With the acquisition of StorageTek, a formidable storage company with a long track record in automated storage libraries, solutions such as Suns CIS will continue to blossom next year.

The repercussions from another transaction—Symantecs acquisition of Veritas for $13.5 billion—will surely be felt for several years in the storage market.

/zimages/2/28571.gifStorage and security make a good match. Click here to read more.

This deal is big for many reasons, not the least of which is that it paves the way for future storage/security vendor mergers.

During the past year, I tested a number of products from Symantec, including its new Backup Exec 10d backup suite and Enterprise Vault 6.0. As much as I liked these two particular products, my tests made it clear that it will be a long time before security and storage management are blended seamlessly.

Backup Exec 10d, which I reviewed in October, provides IT managers with continuous data protection, self-service data retrieval for users and the potential to eliminate tape backups at remote sites.

Enterprise Vault 6.0, also reviewed in October, is an e-mail archive app that effectively centralizes corporate messaging data.

Looking forward, vendors need to focus on improving the process of sharing information among applications and on streamlining the workflow for many IT tasks.

Complexity is the biggest problem when it comes to storage management today, and this cannot be fixed without vastly improved communication among applications and intuitive management interfaces.

Other important transactions this year included NetApps acquisition of Decru, which gives NetApp strong security to go with its NAS (network-attached storage) and SAN offerings, and Hewlett-Packards acquisition of AppIQ, which fills a hole in HPs storage management lineup and hopefully puts the company on the path toward storage management standards.

In the e-mail archive space, CAs acquisition of iLumin shows that CA is determined to become a bigger player in the message management space.

Incremental updates

This year, SAS (serial attached scsi) finally made its way out to the market, which portends the eventual demise of parallel SCSI. With the introduction of SAS, IT managers now have the ability to use both SATA (Serial ATA) and SAS in their servers.

In fact, SAS is set to become the dominant direct-attached storage protocol, and I expect to see more storage arrays entering the market with the ability to provide tiered storage.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to get tips on backup and recovery.

Next year, IT managers should expect to see most new servers shipping with SAS as a standard feature.

In terms of SANs, 4G bps Fibre Channel products became more commonplace this year. While its not as sexy as 10G bps Fibre Channel, 4G bps Fibre Channel products (switches, host bus adapters and storage systems) will provide a significant performance boost over current 2G bps Fibre Channel products without costing organizations an arm and a leg.

With all the big acquisitions and mergers consuming so much time and effort this year, Im hoping next year will be a bigger year in terms of technical innovation.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information about the Seagate Maxtor buyout.

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