If your brain seems to be suffering from information overload, think of the stress on corporate storage systems. Storage is a good business to be in today.
Now that the dotcom boom is a faded memory, what can your average entrepreneur do to make a fortune? The storage industry may not be as glamorous as a dotcom company, but you have to really have your foot in your mouth not to make money in this industry right now.
To be sure, the costs of storage have come down and will probably decline further, but not only do companies today need to store ever increasing amounts of data, but compliance regulations are forcing them to store even information they would not have cast a second glance at a few years ago. Statistics supplied for this article claim that we will have about 40 new exabytes that will need to be stored globally every year, that is around 390 gigabytes of data being created per second. (An exabyte is equal to 1024 petabytes, or 1 152 921 504 606 846 976 bytes - which is a lot of information.)
Helen Constantinides, SSA data centre and data management practice manager at Sun Microsystems SA, expects the storage industry to show positive movement. However, she notes that although Sun is in the pound seats to meet customers' needs after its acquisition of StorageTek, customers are not primarily interested in standalone storage kit, but in integrating existing and new systems with the rest of the enterprise.
"The key for Sun," says Constantinides, "is to ensure the right information is available to the right people at the right time to assist in making effective decisions."
With the world moving to a state of having everything connected to the network, the active participation of all connected devices that form the network (including storage devices) is critical. Moreover, when considering the plethora of new compliance laws companies have to take cognisance of, effective data management requires a combination of software, hardware, solutions and skills.
ILM is where it is at
Dell's enterprise product manager, Ben McDonald, says the company is also focusing on providing the services and products customers need to meet their complete information lifecycle management (ILM) needs in the DAS, NAS and SAN markets. He says the SAN market in South Africa is seeing a reasonable amount of traction.
In the past, SAN solutions were seen as high-end, expensive solutions only available to the enterprise. Standardisation and the trend to openness has resulted in lower costs and easier integration with existing infrastructure - making it easier to rollout SANs in the mid-market. Here again, Dell is focusing on providing an end-to-end solution from consulting through installation and maintenance services.
The complete approach, as touted by Sun and Dell is crucial (although businesses will still be buying bit solutions for some time to come) if companies are to engage effective ILM policies and procedures. ILM requires more than a place to store data, it requires the organisation to implement processes related to the data and its relative importance to the company.
Sagaran Naidoo, business technologist at CA Africa, says today's senior IT staff face a number of key storage challenges, however, three issues are critical:
1. Managing risk and improving compliance.
2. Storage environment availability and security.
3. Reducing storage costs and complexity.
Sagaran Naidoo, business technologist at CA Africa
With these challenges, it becomes clear why storage is no longer a standalone product, but an integrated solution designed to cater for the information overload visible in almost every aspect of modern business life. Of course, all the leading storage vendors are filling in the missing bits in their own storage arsenal to ensure they are able to provide a complete solution to the ever-increasing mountains of data their customers face.