Storage Area Networks

February 5, 2008

Storage area networks have been – and still – are big thing in business. Over the past few years organizations have had to find ways to add more and more storage to their IT environments as new applications come on-line and as new data sources such as Web storefronts have added massive amounts of potentially valuable data to be analyzed. As a results, organizations have invested in more and more storage capability-from larger servers to storage area networks that can connect different types of storage into a unified data network for use by a wide variety of corporate applications or users. Because of the continuing need for greater, faster, more efficient and manageable storage options, business storage solutions are going to continue to be a big area of investment for organizations over the next five years.
But it’s important to recognize that we’re not just going to see this type of focus and growth in the business sector. We’re also going to see it in our homes and personal lives. Over the next few years, the variety and types of significant storage devices we use in our personal lives will increase dramatically-from multiple, different portable storage devices, to ones for use in our cars, to ones connected to our TV and digital media centers, most households will have a variety of new storage devices with new features.
And, okay, so we may not exactly see the same thing-storage area homes-happening in the home that we’ve seen happen in business-storage area networks-but we will see a similar growth in the use of different data storage options to serve and ever-widening array of personal (and home-office) storage needs.
In fact, storage in the home and small office is a incredibly fast-growing area. Some research estimates say that there’s now as much storage in the home as there is in business. Since 2003 the growth in home storage has actually outpaced the growth in business storage. Those are two very interesting statistics that show potential of the role of home storage and digital content management as consumers dramatically increase their storage capacities. First, they indicate a massive opportunity for hardware vendors to design, build and market a variety of personal and small business storage devices for more individual or family use. Secondly, just like google and other consumer-oriented technologies that have changed business user expectations, I believe that this upcoming massive shift in consumer storage devices will also alter business user expectations on storage.
Consumers are essentially gobbling up storage faster than businesses are. When you stop to think about it, it’s not surprising, given the huge growth in digital cameras, the move to DVRs and digital videos, digital music (from MP3s to downloadable iTunes movies, TV shows and music), and more.
We can see the impact of the direction of this trend in some of the recent announcements by companies like Seagate and Maxtor, at January’s consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. For example, Seagate announced the introduction of its Maxtor® BlackArmour™ storage solution, a 2.5-inch consumer-friendly, portable AES government-grade encrypting external storage device that makes it simple for consumers (or business users) to securely and easily take their data with them. With hardware-level encryption, the device is designed to keep content locked even if it’s lost or stolen. Although these types of technologies have been around for years, what’s amazing is that you’ll get 160GB of portable, secure storage for a retail price of $149.99, all from your local Staples or electronics store.
Another interesting part of their announcement was the introduction of Maxtor Central Axis software, a software solution that enables users to remotely connect, access, upload, and share content on a Maxtor Shared Storage II drive, networked on your local home network-without breaching network firewalls. In effect, consumers and home office workers now have an easy way to share and access files remotely while maintaining a high level of security.
I believe that over the next few years we’ll see a huge change in the types and volume of storage devices that standard consumers are using in their homes. We’re going to see both a diversity of applications-from hard drives designed to move movies or music to automobile playback systems to home office storage, backup and remote access. In any case, a great many of these changes in the consumer storage technology landscape will undoubtedly filter back up to the enterprise, affecting the design, deployment and use of future business storage technologies for years to come.

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