Top 10 enterprise data storage news stories of 2009

Due largely to a depressed economy, 2009 was a tumultuous year for IT pros. The pace of data growth continued, but the poor economy mandated flat or decreased data storage budgets in corporations around the world. As storage vendors’ sales cratered, they turned to emerging technologies such as data deduplication, solid-state drives (SSDs) and the cloud to try and stimulate enterprise data storage spending in coming years. These trends were underscored by the most significant news stories and trends of 2009:

10. Data deduplication branches out

Data deduplication in backup targets (virtual tape libraries and network-attached storage [NAS] arrays) was no longer a bleeding-edge technology. In Storage magazine’s most recent Data Storage Purchasing Intentions survey conducted in early September, 21% of respondents said they use deduplication. Twenty-six percent have added it or plan to add it this year. Both figures are new highs for the survey.

As deduplication settled into a comfortable role in backup, data-reduction technology started working its way into other parts of the data storage infrastructure, including primary as well as nearline and archived data.

9. Object-based data storage re-invented

Object data storage isn’t a new concept in the NAS world, but products bypassing traditional file system interfaces began to emerge in 2009 as people began debating the best way to cope with unstructured data and storage in the cloud.

EMC Corp. introduced its object-based Atmos storage system in 2008, and in 2009 opened a cloud storage service along with AT&T based on the Atmos platform.

Atmos got a new direct competitor this year with DataDirect Networks’ Web Object Scaler (WOS). Both companies say they made progress selling these offerings but decline to say how many customers they have so far. Cleversafe Inc. also brought its dsNet Object Store out of the beta testing phase in September 2009, and NetApp Inc. cloud czar Val Bercovici revealed in a blog post that the company best known for network-attached data storage will also be offering a native object data storage interface.

8. Solid-state drives hit market, but adoption slow

Nearly every data storage vendor offered a form of solid-state data storage this year, as startups and emerging companies looked to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of Flash and DRAM-based data storage. By the end of the year, the solid-state drive discussion had evolved from drive specs to higher-ordered system designs that automate the management of data placement on solid-state data storage capacities.

These automation products came late in 2009, however. In December, Gartner estimated just 280,000 solid-state drives had been shipped for enterprise applications. Organizations in a down economy continue to balk at the high price tag for solid-state disks, which is several times higher than Fibre Channel (how much higher depends on which vendor you’re dealing with). Still, automation and lower-cost multi-level cell (MLC) devices hitting the market in the second half of this year have experts more optimistic about the medium’s growth rate in 2010.

7. The NAS renaissance

IDC predicts unstructured data will outgrow structured data for enterprises by the year 2011. In the meantime, Moore’s law has made it possible to build powerful systems using commodity hardware, enabling more cost-effective enterprise scale-out systems and new capabilities for network-attached storage at the low-end.

As a result, there was a big wave of new NAS products in 2009. They focused mostly on three categories: scale-out NAS with a commodity hardware/open source software cost-efficiency theme; more feature-rich NAS for consumer, prosumer, small office/home office (SOHO) and SMB markets; and NAS as a cost-effective means to support virtualized servers.

6. Big vendors stack up

First, Cisco Systems Inc. launched its first server system, called the Unified Computing System (UCS), in the spring. As the networking giant looked to offer an all-in-one “stack” of server and networking equipment to enterprise data centers, other major vendors began to follow suit. Oracle Corp. moved to acquire Sun Microsystems Corp., Hewlett-Packard bought Cisco networking rival 3Com, and Dell Inc. and IBM forged closer partnerships with Brocade Communications Systems. IBM also began to stack products from its own existing product lines in packaged “end to end” bundles for users.

Almost all of the vendors said these moves were also meant to address the ongoing budget squeeze in enterprise shops, which saw flat or declining staff levels and budgets as a result of the global economy.

5. Clouds everywhere

Cloud computing. Cloud data storage. Cloud backup. Cloud service providers. Internal clouds. External clouds. Public clouds. Private clouds. This year the terminology and hype proliferated, new companies spun up to offer data storage space for rent within a virtualized data center infrastructure, and “cloud” became hands down the biggest buzzword of 2009.

Despite the hype, or maybe because of it, the data storage industry is still sorting out what exactly the cloud phenomenon means, and how it fits into data storage plans.

4. vSphere 4 adds long-awaited data storage features

No technology this decade has caused as much sweeping change in the data center as the introduction of server virtualization, and administrators have been adapting to its impact on data storage for several years.

The big news in server virtualization this year was the launch of market leader VMware Inc.’s fourth version of its server virtualization software suite, called vSphere 4. Among the boons for data storage pros in this release are native thin provisioning, support for third-party multipathing, and easier backups.

3. The IBM/Sun/Oracle love triangle

The rumors started in March that IBM was close to buying Sun, which had been damaged by years of losing money and internal restructurings. As it turns out, IBM was only one of several Sun suitors.

According to public filings released later, the deal fell apart over price and antitrust concerns (IBM and Sun are the last remaining major mainframe tape vendors). By the end of April, though, Oracle stepped forward to acquire Sun and move into the data center “stack” business, too.

However, the deal has been held up because of European antitrust concerns over Oracle’s ownership of both its proprietary database and the open source MySQL, through Sun. The deal has yet to close.

2. EMC and NetApp in bidding war for Data Domain

The second great tech love triangle of 2009 centered around data deduplication. Fierce storage system rivals EMC and NetApp slugged it out for data deduplication market leader Data Domain.

NetApp first announced it was planning to acquire Data Domain for $1.5 billion in May, only to have its bid trumped by a direct $1.8 million offer to shareholders from EMC. NetApp raised its offer once, but threw in the towel after EMC bid $2.1 billion in cash. The final price validated that deduplication has become a mainstream storage technology (the amount matches what EMC paid in 2006 for RSA, which has since become its security division). Fallout from this deal continued into the fall as EMC partner Quantum Corp. was left out in the cold.

1. The economy

The global economic downturn that began with the mortgage crisis and collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Bros. in the fall of 2008 reached a valley in the first quarter of 2009, affecting virtually every facet of American industry, IT and data storage included. IT spending dropped drastically in early 2009 and although it began picking up in the third quarter, market forecasts say it will take awhile for spending to reach 2007 levels.

The federal government’s response to the economic downturn, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus package, held profound implications for the data storage industry. The stimulus subsidized the digitization of medical records as well as the deployment of networked “Smart Grid” systems among electric utilities, both of which stand to deliver a tsunami of data growth in the next few years.

*Contents from Search / By Beth Pariseau, Senior News Writer

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Jan 13, 2010 by