Storage Growth: Lowering The Limbo Stick

The reality is that demand for more storage is not growing as much as originally forecast—and the forecast revisions are significant. How are analysts deriving their numbers?

The silly season is about to begin again. Storage conferences are looming on the horizon and I just can’t wait to hear what the vendors are going to be selling and what sugar-coating the analyst community will put on it all.

There are some cool developments to be sure. Look for exciting technology from Spectra Logic over the next couple of months and also from a number of companies you have never heard of. The next installment of Networld+Interop’s Storage Day, chaired by yours truly, is scheduled for Las Vegas on May 12. It promises to deliver a reality check that storage desperately needs—not only in my opinion, but in the opinion of many voices inside and outside the industry.

One thing that shouldn’t escape your notice is the dramatic revision in analyst projections of data growth. Remember the “data explosion” of just a couple of years ago? Gartner and IDC told us that data was growing at something like 100 percent per annum. On a panel discussion at the time, I had the opportunity to confront an analyst on the source of this data and was told, point blank, that the estimates were coming straight from the vendors’ mouths, based on “their extensive work with customers to solve the problems of the data burgeon.”

It struck me as odd that the analysts would take anything that vendors said so seriously. Didn’t they learn their lesson when thin clients didn’t replace PCs on the desktop or Application Service Providers did not replace traditional one-off software licensing?

Moreover, until very recently, most customers didn’t have a clue how fast data was growing in their shops. Storage management software tools were immature at best and no one did (or does) a very good job of policing up the dupes and dreck that had accumulated on their most expensive platforms. Today, the Information Lifecycle Management folks would have us just move it around so it becomes harder to tell how badly our resources are oversubscribed and underutilized.

Anyway, two years ago the rate of data growth mantra changed subtly from 100 percent to 70 percent per annum. Last year, analysts started using 50 and 70 percent figures. Now, from the slide decks I’ve previewed, the number has dropped to 25 to 30 percent per year. If you are like me, you may be wondering who is holding the limbo stick.

It’s not just me who feels that storage marketecture is out of control. Computer Associates BrightStor honcho and friend of this column, Marco Coulter, reports about what he is hearing from his customers.

"My current favorite rant is the micro-management of storage. I was speaking to a customer (financial) the other day and they were talking about putting HSM-style management in for their e-mail system."

In his Aussie lilt, Coulter describes the rest of the encounter, “‘Goodo, deal here’, I thought, believing they must have stacks of storage already and a significant growth rate. Turns out they had well under 1 TB with a minimal growth rate. It would be cheaper to buy more hardware than to buy e-mail HSM software, and implement and manage it for perpetuity. I am all for knowing what's going in your storage world, but there must be a rule of thumb somewhere.”

Like many consumers, Coulter is looking for something like a program statement:

If: you are below this line
Then: just know where the line is (SRM)
Else: start the more detailed management (ILM/DLM/HSM/you name it)

“The trick is,” he concluded, “determining where the line is. For e-mail, I say at least 1TB. Too low or too high? What do you think?”

I intend to ask the analysts and vendors at upcoming conferences this very question. It will be interesting to see just how low this limbo stick can go among a flock of vendors who want to sell us either more storage hardware or more storage management software.

About the Author

Jon William Toigo is chairman of The Data Management Institute, the CEO of data management consulting and research firm Toigo Partners International, as well as a contributing editor to Enterprise Systems and its Storage Strategies columnist. Mr. Toigo is the author of 14 books, including Disaster Recovery Planning, 3rd Edition, and The Holy Grail of Network Storage Management, both from Prentice Hall.