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Why the Future of Storage Looks Bright

Hard diskA new GigaOM Pro report from Analytico’s Tom Trainer, “The Future of Data Center Storage” (subscription required), could not have come at a better time. The report examines key storage trends, as well as what overall IT initiatives are driving them and what industry leaders are doing to address them. While other aspects of cloud and web-scale data centers — virtualization, computing, networking and systems management — are new and glamorous and drive differentiation, the IT community tends to ignore the importance of storage. That’s an omission that could yield disastrous results. Everything has to be virtualized, flexible and automated — merely being on-demand won’t cut it anymore. Computing, virtualization and networking must be unified to deliver maximum results. On top of that, infrastructures must be designed to handle, analyze and deliver mountains of data, in whatever format they might exist. Information, after all, means money. This is what Google, Facebook and Amazon do, and it’s all so fascinating.

However, as any industry expert will tell you, making the wrong storage decisions as you build your cutting-edge data center could be catastrophic. It is difficult to understate how many stories I have heard about companies undertaking server virtualization initiatives only to discover major performance issues at the storage layer. Trainer’s report should let IT professionals sleep easy, though, because it makes it clear that while they have been ignoring storage, the storage industry has not been neglecting them. Storage vendors understand what IT departments want to do, and they either have created, or are developing, technologies to address these goals.

Many new storage offerings have cloud computing in mind, in fact. They are optimized for virtualized environments; they have improved ease of management; and they enable on-demand provisioning, ridiculous capacity (deduplication helps maximize it), high scalability, and better-than-ever performance.  And while most storage vendors, like NetApp, are content selling equipment to companies that want to achieve or offer cloud-like services, some, like EMC, are building cloud-storage platforms of their own.

Leading providers of cloud-optimized storage include 3PAR, NetApp, EMC and IBM, with Hitachi Data Systems playing in the space as well, according to Trainer. A wild card could be Oracle-Sun, which has a currently disconnected cloud-storage-data-virtualization-computing-application-platform combo that could be pieced together into a variety of unified solutions.

Storage might not be exciting, and it might not be perfect, but it is increasingly important as IT moves into the cloud and virtualization era. Thankfully, the storage industry seems to have soldiered forward despite a lack of respect, and it appears prepared for the day when IT managers with clouds in their eyes inevitably come calling.

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