2013's 5 most important storage events

The most important stories aren't always those that win the most attention at the time. These are my picks for the important, but not always famous, 2013 stories.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Important storage stories range from obscure underlying technologies to great public controversies about how and why we use the massive repositories that new technology has made possible. Data security - like highway safety - is an issue that will always be with us because the costs of failure are high but there is no good alternative.

5) Advanced erasure coding for object storage
Object storage is the fastest growing sector of the storage industry - perhaps even the only growing sector - so improvements to its efficiency and competitiveness are important. Both Facebook and Microsoft researchers have made significant improvements that make on-premise RAID systems even more uncompetitive for bulk storage.

4) Thousand year DVD
The lack of reliably persistent storage is a real threat to a digital civilization. While the capacity may not be everything we'd like, the 1,000 year DVD from Millenniata - which I torture tested - looks like the real deal.

Expect to see and hear more in 2014 as more burner vendors are certified. And the Blu-ray version should be generally available this year as well.

3) Nirvanix failure
The failure of high-end cloud storage vendor Nirvanix reminds us that clouds are businesses, not magic. They gave their customers 1 month to get their data back, which could be a problem if dozens of terabytes needed moving.

Even if the vendor is sound, stuff happens. You also need to plan for loss of access, or configure your cloud to overcome even data center level failures.

2) PC market collapse
In 2013 we discovered that most people don't want to buy PCs: they just want to read email, surf and share pictures and movies, preferably while lounging in bed. PC vendors no longer call the shots in the consumer storage market and drive vendors have responded with increased external storage sales, innovative new products and acquisitions.

Seagate's acquisition of enclosure vendor Xyratex - spun out of IBM some 20 years ago - is a welcome sign of greater vertical integration. Consumers want to buy storage, not disks, and that is the business drive vendors need to win.

1) NSA spying on Americans
Remember earlier this year when xenophobes were whipping up hysteria about possible backdoors in Huawei's networking gear? Turns out the NSA was way ahead of them - and Americans way behind.

The NSA has damaged the credibility of every American tech company - China says thank you! - and there is no easy way back to a position of trust. Storage vendor EMC, who owns RSA, is probably wondering why they thought buying RSA was a good idea.

The cozy military-industrial-surveillance complex needs a major shake up with much greater transparency and a strong rebuke - but don't hold your breath - from the Supreme Court. 9/11 terrorized Americans into giving up their freedom in exchange for illusory security. That needs to end now - and maybe in 2014 it will.

The Storage Bits take
The storage industry is moving faster than I've ever seen in the last 30+ years, and it shows no sign of slowing down. That's the good news.

The bad news is that society is only now starting to understand what it means for huge data stores to capture commonplace behavior and subject it to advanced statistical analysis. It's like the invention of cheap alcohol distillation in the 18th century - yay, a cheap drunk! - but the damage to society took decades to understand and mitigate.

But storage is a tool that - like any tool - can be used for good or ill. Let's hope we have the collective wisdom to know the difference.

Comments welcome, of course. What stories made your list?

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