Digital Universe expands, storage spending shrinks

Research firm IDC Ltd. estimates that 487 billion gigabytes of digital information was created globally in 2008, and that Canada’s contribution to this Digital Universe will be a 30 per cent year-over-year increase.

But while the volume of digital data may be expanding, the current economic downturn has ensured that storage spending is not. The IDC report from May, entitled As the Economy Contracts, the Digital Universe Expands, predicts that spending on storage and servers will fall by six per cent in 2009. While it appears a mere single digit decrease, it is nonetheless meaningful because the utilization and capacity demand for storage has been growing steadily until now, said Dave Pearson, senior analyst for storage with Toronto-based research firm IDC Canada Ltd. “It’s significant in that we haven’t seen a decrease in storage in many years,” said Pearson.

The challenge facing businesses in light of tight budgets, said Pearson, is how to manage that digital information because “if the amount of data and capacity demand is increasing, and you have no money to spend on storage, then something has got to give.”

Pearson suggested data management policy changes, like extending the lifecycle of current storage hardware by not taking it offline as soon. Also, it’s a good approach to decrease the lifecycle of information so that workers are saving the right data for the right length of time, and moving less important data from primary storage to archives, he said.

A hot topic right now, said Pearson, is how to increase utilization through compression and de-duplication. “Storage virtualization is starting to come to the foreground more so in the States than in Canada, but its impact will be felt here as well,” he said, citing the announcement this week of the acquisition of Santa Clara, Calif.-based de-duplication vendor Data Domain by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based data management vendor NetApp Inc.

According to Michael Sharun, the managing director of EMC Canada, server virtualization and consolidation are two “No. 1 areas” companies are targeting to help manage digital data, as they stand to reap information accessibility and cost savings. EMC sponsored the IDC research.

“When people are starting to try to find information, they are finding that it is very challenging,” said Sharun. “The vast amount of information and the quickness in terms of the growth of that information often results in people storing everything then trying to look for it.”

And while IT spending is tight right now, Sharun said managing information is part of a larger-scale strategic plan for customers. During assessments of customers’ current data, he said an average of 68 per cent of data has not been accessed within a year, “yet it’s occupying space on their most costly storage devices being backed up daily … that’s a huge cost bearing on companies.”

Sharun said the area of content management complements the further development of EMC’s Documentum suite, acquired in 2003.

But Pearson noted that the topic of storage concerns not just the raw data, but issues of security, compliance and data classification that are important as well. “Depending on where you are in your organization, it could be any of these factors, but they all revolve around storage that will by tying up your time and money,” he said.

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