Despite an uneven economy, the growth of data from Web services and rich media continues to drive technology spending on storage and the networks required to share stored information across an enterprise. The result: companies are constantly searching for better technology to manage that information. John Parkinson, chief technology officer at Paris-based Cap Gemini Ernst & Young LLP, spoke with Computerworld U.S. recently about information overload and the increased complexity it brings to the enterprise.
Q: What types of concerns do you see related to data storage with client firms?
A: In general, it’s how much storage [capacity] everybody needs. If you look at the opportunity to leverage information assets as part of managing a business and then the amount of data that has to go into storage in order to do that, the numbers are astounding compared to a decade ago.
For example, in oil and gas exploration, because they use modelling and analytical data to find resources, we’re seeing some of the big integrated oil companies buying storage at half a petabyte at a time, whereas that was probably the aggregate of all corporate storage in the world 15 years ago. Now that’s what it takes to run the analytics for one oil company.
Q: Should companies be centralizing or decentralizing their storage infrastructures?
A: For at least a five- but no more than 10-year period, economics will drive data-set consolidations. If you look inside the enterprise, except for big companies where centralized storage dominates, you find one-third to two-thirds of all storage is on the PC hard drive, which is as distributed as you can get. It’s impossible to maintain consistency of data with that kind of infrastructure. It’s also a fact of life that it’s easier to manage computers from a centralized rather than decentralized architecture. My view is there’s going to be an inevitable centralization trend just because of those factors.
Q: How severely has the market downturn affected spending on IT projects?
A: Everything is down. But because storage architecture projects were pretty significant and were already under way before everything fell off a cliff, storage spending has held up better than server spending. Server consolidation, however, is a huge trend. We’ve done some surveys, and based on our research work … we think companies bought 35 per cent to 40 per cent more server capacity than they needed [prior to the recession] to run their businesses. Some of that was due to technologies that had gotten a lot better and needed a lot of compute capacity.
Q: So, which projects are still getting funded?
A: In general, anything that saves you money and it saves you money fast. We’re seeing a lot of tactical stuff focused on one- or two-quarter ROI models.
Secondly, companies are looking at finishing the [enterprise resource planning] implementations they started. We’re getting the indication people are ready to finish the project they started three, four, five years ago. Then, after that, it’s any project that has to do with customer loyalty: [customer relationship management] and other data-intensive kinds of projects. Anything that has to do with business intelligence and the analytics that wrap around them.
Q: What’s the marketplace looking like for IP storage solutions?
A: I’m sort of on the fence as to whether that stuff has more than niche applications. ISCSI (SCSI over IP) is an interesting technology, but to me it looks like the last throes of SCSI guys who are trying to keep their technology alive. That’s the read I have on it. As you have to keep pushing the bandwidth [required for backup and recovery] up, the SCSI protocol … gets harder and harder to keep up with the performance growth going on.
The real marketplace growth is in fibre channel over copper [rather than over fibre-optic lines]. I really don’t believe high-speed SCSI is growing.