Challenges Ahead for Storage Industry in 2004

Technology transitions and market forces will bring a bit of turmoil to the storage industry in 2004. Both enterprise customers and consumers will have many more options for storage and making choices may prove difficult at times.

Making predictions in the storage industry would seem to be a no-brainer. Capacities will go up and cost will come down, right? Maybe not. Instead, shifting technologies and trends in the storage industry could mean a challenging year ahead for vendors, IT managers and end users.

While hard disk capacities will rise, they may not rise as quickly as in recent memory. And the prices will show the same trend (although in the other direction). But performance will also buck the past trend.

Storage vendors may have more trouble than expected persuading end users of the benefits of new products sporting transitional standards, such as Serial ATA II and 2-inch enterprise drives. Expect a number of customers to be confused by the notion that a hard disk can be better but not necessarily bigger. (RISC processor vendors have faced a similar difficulty at times trying to explain how the raw megahertz speed of a processor may not be the best measure of performance, especially with applications in real-world use.)

On the optical front, the arrival of drives based on blue laser diode mechanisms will improve capacity points and performance of next-generation DVDs. At the same time, the technology will bring compatibility issues between competing formats and older drives. At the same time, other vendors—or even countries such as China—will seek to gain market advantage by extending the current red laser technology and introducing a batch of new formats.

At least twice in the year, some industry figure will exclaim that "tape is dead," just as they have over the past decade. What looks like a zombie status to some should continue in 2004.

USB memory keys will continue to proliferate, and vendors will build all sorts of applications and capabilities into them. Products with biometrics support and encryption will sound like great ideas and be popular features—and prove difficult at times for many users.

Managers of network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SAN) systems will gain a wider range of capacity, performance and reliability options with the integration of drives with Serial ATA and Serial Attached SCSI interfaces. But there may be too many options. Some will have trouble differentiating the capabilities and prices between competing products or when comparing the value of just extending the life of their current investment in older (and more understandable) storage boxes.

SAN managers will appreciate the continuing progress in management applications by storage vendors, especially standards-based approaches allowing sites to handle storage systems from different manufacturers. However, full compatibility with older SANs will remain modest and the software may present problems when dealing with the very storage investment that users still want to leverage.


See eWEEK Labs Analyst Henry Baltazars storage predictions for 2004.

Storage security will become a serious issue this year. A major enterprise will suffer an attack on its SAN, and this incident will lead storage managers to lock everything down. Expect storage security to be the big growth area in 2004 for both solutions and consultants.

A number of non-storage companies will see an opportunity with NAS and enter the market with mostly inexpensive products aimed at consumers or SOHO market segments. Some of the offerings will offer a good value; however, expect others to stumble by underestimating the level of engineering, quality assurance and support required of storage products.

Wireless NAS. Put a line item in for the batteries. Nuff said. Storage Center Editor David Morgenstern is a longtime reporter of the storage industry as well as a veteran of the dot-com boom in the storage-rich fields of professional content creation and digital video.

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