The future of storage

The pressure on storage resources within the enterprise has never been greater, with the IT department having to handle unprecedented growth in both structured and unstructured data storage in the years ahead.

Regulatory changes on both sides of the Atlantic have made it harder than ever for companies to effectively manage unstructured data, as businesses look to retain far more email and document data electronically than would have been retained five years ago. In fact, most companies are still practicing the keep everything' approach to compliance.

While such an unstructured approach to storage is great news for those selling storage, for the end user and the IT department, it is a strategy that simply amplifies the problem of finding the piece of data you need within the pile, regardless of whether or not keeping everything does indeed tackle compliance concerns.

There is also pressure from data formats traditionally not associated with the workplace audio, video, image files, web site designs, animations these are just a few examples of the sorts of files that have previously been the domain of consumers of specialist business users only. Now they are commonplace, and the IT department is expected to store them, retain them long term and be able to recover them in the event of an accident or IT disaster.

"The amount of data that people need to store is still going to experience explosive growth," said Juergen Arnold, Research and Development director for enterprise data storage at HP.

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"Where is that growth coming from? It is not the traditional world of the database, though of course these areas are going to grow too. Instead the real growth is coming from new types of data that needs storing - Photo storage, video and creative content storage."

The value of storage

Analyst expectations are that storage will remain in the top two spending considerations for most large enterprises alongside security for at least the next three years. So significant is the demand for storage hardware, software and services, that many companies are expected to increase spending on storage products, even if budgets come under pressure in the coming year.

According to Gartner: "In 2007, the worldwide storage service market was worth nearly $27 billion, with nearly $10 billion in hardware support services. This is exclusive of hardware and software sales."

Similarly, some 70 per cent of enterprise storage investment is currently taken up with maintaining existing storage levels and support contracts, something that most vendors are addressing with modern hardware that has a lower support overhead.

Email takes up around a quarter of all enterprise storage today, while general files and office documents will occupy another 15 per cent or so. Backup and replications will account for 10 per cent of overall storage capacity.

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