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Storage Outlook '08: Storage Managers' Priorities

Storage managers will ring in the new year with a to-do list of storage projects that's topped off with the usual suspects—backup, adding capacity and disaster recovery—according to a survey of storage managers recently conducted.

Backup was cited as the prime storage priority for 2008 by 12% of the respondents, and was among the top three priorities for 39% of the storage managers taking the survey. Job no. 1 for slightly more than 10% of respondents was adding disk capacity, with a little more than double that number putting it on their list of top three storage priorities. Addressing disaster recovery—refining, testing, expanding or implementing DR plans—ranked third as the top storage priority, with 8% considering DR a prime storage concern.

But if the prospect of coping with those all-too-familiar storage nemeses doesn't seem too appealing, at least most managers will have a little extra dough to deal with these ongoing dilemmas. Nearly 58% of respondents said they expected their storage spending to increase by at least 5% this year. Overall, average increase in planned storage spending was 6.2%--more than a percentage point higher than last year's results gathered on our twice-annual Purchasing Intentions survey. Only 8.4% expected their storage spending to dip below last year's levels.

Company size had some bearing on the rate at which storage spending is expected to increase in 2008. Small (revenues less than $100 million) and large (revenues over $1 billion) companies both reported expected 5.8% hikes in their spending, while midsized ($100 million to $1 billion) companies expect to increase their spending by 6.7%.

Lots of disk coming in 2008

Those substantial spending increases appear to be earmarked in large part for disk systems. Companies are still adding capacity hand over fist, with much of the new disk destined to serving critical apps. Some 64% of survey respondents indicated that their main focus for capacity expansion would be at the primary storage level; nearline storage was a distant second at 25%.

2008 looks to be shaping up as a "big iron" year, with nearly two-thirds -- 65% -- of the respondents expecting to buy new Fibre Channel arrays this year. Tied for second on respondents' shopping lists are multi-protocol arrays and NAS filers, both at about 34%. And for those still waiting for the "year of iSCSI" to happen, IP-based storage might be gaining some traction in 2008, as 28% of the respondents say they'll purchase iSCSI arrays.

But storage managers aren't just looking to add high-end storage -- they're also planning to add a lot of it. The average capacity that survey respondents indicated they will add this year is a bit more than 44TB—a figure that gibes with the upward trend we've seen in our purchasing surveys. Broken down by company size, big businesses will add an average of 73TB, midsized companies plan on adding 37TB, and small firms are looking at an additional 25TB

Those numbers are sobering reminders of spiraling capacity requirements, and users appear determined to explore new ways to rein in growth this year. For example, while only 12% of the survey respondents are currently using storage virtualization, 55% plan to either deploy or evaluate file virtualization in 2008 and 48% plan to do the same with block virtualization. Thin provisioning, a technology that can help control capacity growth by only doling out disk when it's actually needed, is currently being used by only 10% of respondents, but 41% say they'll either deploy or evaluate it in the coming year.

With the pressing need for more capacity, storage managers seem more concerned with getting by than going "green." Only 15% said power consumption and cooling requirements will be important enough factors in their disk shopping that they may determine their final choices.

Building better backup

With backup such a high priority among survey respondents, it's not surprising that many plan to retool or upgrade their backup operations. If there was any question that disk has become de rigueur in backup processes, these survey results should allay those doubts.

Nearly 46% of respondents plan to beef up their disk backup environments by buying additional arrays dedicated to data protection, and another 36% will add drives to existing backup disk systems. On the tape side of the backup equation, 47% indicated that they'll make do with their current configurations this year. Those who plan to add some tape capacity are split 50-50 between adding a new tape library (27%) and adding slots or drives to existing libraries (26%).

As with their efforts to cope with capacity growth, storage managers seem ready to embrace—or at least consider—some newer data protection technologies. Data deduplication, hot in 2007, looks poised to sizzle in 2008. While fewer than 12% of respondents currently use data dedupe, a whopping 69% plan to either implement or evaluate it this year.

With a similar installed base, continuous data protection (CDP) technologies also look like they're going to take off in 2008, with 57% of respondents planning deployments or evaluations. Archiving and replication, more mature data protection apps, are each used by about one-quarter of respondents; but 50-plus percent expressed interest in those two technologies for 2008.

More than a third of respondents don't plan to buy and addition backup/restore software this year. Among those who are doing some software shopping, 31% say they'll add new functionality or options to their existing backup apps. This suggests that software vendors' strategies of adding new features to their backup suites may be paying off, with users more likely to buy new capabilities—such as CDP or dedupe—from a familiar source.

With so much disk capacity being added this year, about 21% of respondents say they will purchase additional licenses for their current backup applications, which are often licensed based on capacity. The enormous popularity of server virtualization is also fueling the need for additional backup licenses.

A small yet very daring portion of respondents—a little more than 13%--plan the daunting task of replacing their current backup applications in 2008.

Storage net and management

Again, driven largely by capacity increases, more than two-thirds of respondents plan to build out their storage fabrics. The largest slice of network upgraders (31%) plan to add switches to their current fabrics, with 19% saying they will add new fabrics either at their companies' main location or at remote sites.

Although nearly half of the respondents say they won't add to their storage management toolkits, with the rest of the group were roughly evenly split among buying software that addresses specific needs (e.g., operational reporting, provisioning, compliance management), tapping their hardware vendors for additional management tools and adding third-party apps.

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