Enterprises Must Confront Key Storage Management Challenges

Just as Andy Warhol promised each person 15 minutes of fame, network storage management is about to enjoy its moment on the IT center stage. Analysts at the market research company International Data Corporation (IDC) forecast that the worldwide market for storage software will climb from $5.47 billion in 2000 to $10.7 billion in 2005, a figure that represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.4 percent and total growth of 96 percent during the period.

IDC segments storage software into four subcategories: backup and archiving (which includes Hierarchical Storage Management—HSM), storage resource management, storage replication, and other storage utilities. Storage resource management promises to be the fastest-growing sector, according to IDC, with revenues climbing from $1.1 billion in 2000 to $2.7 billion in 2005, a 19.5 percent CAGR.

These numbers correspond with a survey conducted at a recent Gartner conference. The survey revealed that storage budgets will grow at a faster rate in 2002 than overall hardware budgets for most companies in 2001 and 2002. In contrast, the overall budget for computer hardware accelerated faster than the storage budget last year. Interestingly, storage budgets are poised to climb dramatically even though the per-gigabyte cost of storage is dropping by 25 percent or more annually.

The robust demand for storage software comes at a time when the demand for more high-profile technology, ranging from servers to PDAs, is slowing considerably. According to IDC, three factors are fueling the demands. First, e-commerce applications have forced companies to capture and store more information in more digital formats than before, and the corporate information growth rate continues to increase. Second, companies are increasingly alert to the need to manage and protect information stored on individual desktops and mobile devices. Third, the widespread deployments of Storage Area Networks (SANs) is specifically driving the need for effective storage management—SANs require sophisticated resource-management tools designed with storage networking in mind.

The renewed attention to storage issues, however, has revealed several significant challenges that many enterprises need to confront. Because companies often add storage resources haphazardly, many companies aren't aware of the total number of storage devices they have, the location of those devices, who controls each device, and how they use the different devices. According to some estimates, only 10 percent of US companies maintain current, detailed storage-resource information ranging from performance metrics, to usage and growth trends, to costs.

Lacking even baseline knowledge of their storage infrastructure, these companies often find it difficult to rationalize and control their storage operations. Conducting an audit aimed at determining the total cost of ownership (TCO) for storage technology isn't easy. TCO includes much more than hardware and software costs. Support is also a significant factor in many organizations, with costs climbing as much as 5 percent to 10 percent per year, according to the Evaluator Group, a storage consulting company.

Better management is only part of the story, however. A serious lack of qualified personnel is also a challenge. In a recent survey that RHI Consulting conducted to look at the IT specialty areas with the strongest demand, researchers didn't even break out storage administration as a separate category. Setting up heterogeneous SANs is difficult. Yet there is no industry-standard certification for SAN training yet, although the Storage Network Industry Association (SNIA) and others are working on one.

Over the next several years, companies will strive increasingly to build an infrastructure to provide 100 percent application uptime and data availability. That objective will fuel the growth of storage software, particularly storage-management software. At the same time, however, organizations need to understand the contours and costs of their current information infrastructures and work hard to ensure that they have qualified, experienced professionals in place so that they can reach their infrastructure goals.

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