by Laurianne McLaughlin

Storage Gets Sexy

Mar 20, 20073 mins
Data Center

For years, storage has had a stodgy image. Processors said speed, software said cool, and storage said something along the lines of “zzzzz.” But stately old storage has moved front stage. Not only does enterprise IT have to retain more information than ever before due to compliance and regulatory requirements, but also, you have to be able to slice and dice it for everything from competitive analytics to legal discovery requests. And word is, your storage needs are going to skyrocket in the next four years.

By 2010, we’ll produce almost 1,000 exabytes of digital information per year, according to market research firm IDC (a sister company to CXO Media.) An exabyte equals 1 billion gigabytes. IDC predicts approximately six-fold growth in the data we create, capture, and copy during the next four years.

Without exception, enterprises will need integrated, forward-looking approaches for managing this ever-increasing heap of data. CIOs will need multi-tiered storage strategies that are both efficient and nimble. And hopefully, the dollars at stake will drive some real innovation by storage industry vendors.

Perhaps more interesting than the number itself (numbers like this can always be debated, and the blogosphere has already expressed differing views on this one) consider the following: Business is not driving this train. Consumers will create better than 65% of that information, IDC says. Yet 85% of it incurs some corporate responsibility — for example, when personal digital camera images are stored on work PCs.

What is keeping some CIOs up at night already? Some 90% of this data is unstructured, like pictures or packets or video clips, IDC says. So you can’t keyword-search it or manage it easily right now. (University researchers and some pioneering companies like Blinkx are using artificial intelligence technology to build a new wave of image and video search tools, but it’s a tough search problem to solve.)

About 437 billion images will be captured by digital cameras in 2006, according to IDC. Are you as CIO going to forbid people from keeping photo files on their work laptops? That one’s going to be tough to enforce, if you’re not in one of the most regulated industries like finance or insurance where users are used to keeping an unbreakable line between work and home on their PCs.

In a related data point that speaks loudly, Dell introduced its first consumer-line personal computer models with one terabyte hard drives last week.

Enterprise users have had access to terabyte drives before of course, but consumers simply haven’t demanded this kind of storage power in the past. As Dell noted, these Hitachi drives can hold a million photos, 16 days of DVD quality video, or if you’d like, a million minutes of music.

Does the sound of that kind of storage hunger give you a headache, CIOs? What’s the biggest storage worry for your enterprise? Let’s get the conversation going and drive some coverage of the storage questions that you want to explore the most.