Looking at the receding revenues and disappearing profits on hardware products, most of the vendors are now busy wrapping their wares with management software and so-called value-added services. Unfortunately, the already confused IT managers have no choice but to shell out money in the hope of solving the data storage management puzzle.
Before discussing the issue further, let us look at some of the latest trends in the storage market:
* Hardware products prices are down. Overspending on storage during the dotcom boom and squeezed IT budgets in a tough economy are the major reasons for this.
* Software and services have become a major revenue generator for IT companies involved in storage business. Hardware storage companies like EMC are also fishing for software services business to check their falling profits.
* A number of startups and even large companies are flocking to the storage market with their software and services packages. Blame it on the hype after 9/11 or the fact that storage was one of the rare segments poised to grow despite severe infotech slowdown.
* Sensing the opportunities, big players like IBM, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Dell, Sun Microsystems have laid special emphasis on storage business in last few quarters. Cisco has also joined the bandwagon with its plans to buy storage switch maker, Andiamo Systems.
* Data is moving: From gigabyte to terabyte and terabyte to petabyte. From servers to local area network (LAN) and LAN to Internet. The IT managers are looking for ways to get their arms around exploding volumes of data and manage it in a much more efficient way.
Coming back to the issue, the compulsion of investing in storage software and services is real. It is easy to buy one more box of hard disk today but it is really difficult to manage it as part of the whole system. Its not just plug and play anymore.
Storage management needs a well-defined strategy and a long-term policy in place because much larger issues are attached to storage rather than just storing the data. The storage system will work as a base for your business intelligence, online transaction processing (OLTP) and data warehousing applications.
This is the time to consolidate the storage and the companies need to weave an external fabric. But, they will have to pay for services to get the professional help in designing strategies, policies and prepare themselves for future. However, IT managers need to be careful about credibility and capability of vendor; life, interoperability and scalability of technology; and skills required from their IT teams.
The industry watchers believe that these trends may lead to a future churn in the storage segment and will change the market landscape. The lesson for the IT manager is to learn the tricks of surviving the shakeup by choosing the right technology, right vendor and right policies.