Any way you slice it, 2001 could have been a better year for the storage technology industry. But despite the promise and hype surrounding the three key storage issues of the year - virtualization, IP storage, and SAN (storage area network) and NAS (network attached storage) convergence - 2001 ended up being little more than a staging ground for future progress, according to industry experts.
The crippled economy, a dot-com hangover, and confusing messages from competing storage vendors all played a role making 2001 what Ashok Kumar, an industry analyst for U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray Inc., in Menlo Park, Calif., called "another year that never was" for the storage industry.
"The network storage industry had an abysmal year in 2001," Kumar said. "Only a year ago we were being told by the storage industry that storage was not a discretionary purchase because IT users had an insatiable appetite for storage capacity. Bah humbug! Technology advances [in 2001] were minimal with the increase of Fibre Channel from 1GB to 2GB as the crowning achievement."
Dan Tanner, a senior analyst for storage and storage management with the Aberdeen Group Inc., in Boston, agrees that 2001 didn't live up to its promise as a boom year for storage.
"Certainly because of the economy in general and the events of Sept. 11 in particular, business-wise it was hardly a banner year, although I think progress has been made on several fronts," said Tanner, who added that those key fronts were storage virtualization, IP storage, and SAN and NAS convergence.
"All three of these ideas have at the very least taken root, with some products appearing as well," Tanner said. "Certainly they don't dominate yet, but they have taken root because increasingly, the concept of the network being the computer is becoming more true than ever."
Making storage resources readily available through the Ethernet and Internet with IP storage, distributing those storage resources across the entire network with SAN and NAS convergence, and then ultimately managing those storage resources as if they were one big pool of storage through virtualization all play to the concept of "the network as the computer" as opposed to the current jumble of individual, mixed-vendor servers that create such huge management headaches for IT administrators, according to Tanner.
However in their fervor to leverage the potential profitability of these three ideas, storage vendors did their customers no favors in 2001. Vendors willing to call their technologies anything that customers thought they were supposed to be looking for only served to confuse storage buyers in 2001.
"The industry needs to agree on some common themes and language to further its cause," Kumar said. "A prime example of the [storage] industry's spastic messaging is storage virtualization."