2010's top 5 storage stories

From multi-billion dollar acquisitions to net neutrality, 2010 was a tumultuous - and good - year for storage. But technology took a backseat to bigger issues.

From multi-billion dollar acquisitions to net neutrality, 2010 was a tumultuous - and good - year for storage. But technology took a backseat to bigger issues.

5. USB 3.0 Finally, a low-cost consumer interconnect that is faster than a single disk drive. USB 3.0 appeared on dozens of products, ranging from notebooks to PCIe cards to storage enclosures. Penetration is still tiny - there are over 2 billion USB 2.0 ports out there - but 2010 is the year that USB 3.0 came to market and proved that it works.

4. Flash continues its rise Flash seems like it is everywhere, but in PC storage it isn't: over 500 million disks were shipped this year against maybe 20 million SSDs. But the controllers are improving, costs are again dropping and USB 3.0 will enable external SSDs to show higher performance than disks for the first time.

3. Privacy regulation The Wall Street Journal's strong series of articles on web privacy was answered by a Federal effort to ensure consumers have some privacy.

This is essential: consumers need to feel safe on the web. Just as airlines need FAA safety regs to keep consumers flying, legitimate web businesses need privacy and security regulation.

2. Multi-billion dollar acquisitions EMC bought clustered storage maker Isilon for $2.2 billion. IBM bought data warehouse appliance maker Netezza for $1.8 billion. HP bought 3Par for $2.3 billion. Even Dell got back into the game, buying Compellent for $960 million.

But there were lots of other, smaller deals as well, ranging from the head-scratching - EMC buys Bustech? - to the canny - NetApp buys clustered storage software maker Bycast - that will put big-company clout behind some innovative technology. 2010 is the year that even the big boys admitted that RAID arrays are entering their sunset years.

1. Net neutrality If we had a competitive free market in Internet access and network infrastructure we wouldn't need common carrier status for service providers. But Internet economics favor scale and with scale comes limited competition - and companies that exploit their power to the detriment of consumers and the country. While the FCC's new regulations are weaker than many hoped, they make the point that there are limits on what ISPs can do.

Telco execs will swallow hard and decide there is still money to be made. Investments will rise and new services will entice consumers.

The Storage Bits take Storage doesn't move as fast as CPUs, software and networks. People have huge investments in their data which makes them conservative.

But they do move, and in 2010 we saw much good: the uptake of new technologies by large companies; the beginning of consumer web privacy protection; and the rise of a new high-speed interconnect.

These may seem tangential to mainstream storage, but storage is more than bits at rest. What is stored, who stores it, for what purposes and how we access it is just as important as the storage technologies used.

Products and practices that encourage the use of storage, be they price cuts or net neutrality, are good for the industry and, ultimately, good for our society and culture.

2010 was a good year. May 2011 be better.

Comments welcome, of course.