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The currency of business

Like the currency market where exchange rates vary from day to day depending on economic and political situations in the country, data storage in a company should be convertible from one platform to another with minimum costs.

Like the currency market where exchange rates vary from day to day depending on economic and political situations in the country, data storage in a company should be convertible from one platform to another with minimum costs

That was the comment made by Terry Keene, president of Enabling Technologies Group, at the recent IBM TotalStorage Solutions Press Tour held in Bali.

Keene urged customers to demand for storage on any platform and server with high-speed connectivity and the possibility to buy storage from any vendor regardless of existing server OS to break the cycle of ‘closed’ (rather than ‘proprietary’) source that some vendors use to lock-in a user to their products.

This, he says, provides little incentive for a vendor to innovate or to improve an existing product line when the vendor knows that a user is unable to use anything else

“Data is the currency of the information age," Keene avers.

Keene was there as an industry consultant and analyst to provide an independent view on the state and roadmap for storage. His message for the attendees was that IT and storage should not become a commodity with prices falling and rising across the board for hardware, software and services. This would not happen unless there was growth of open systems and customers demanded it.

With speakers ranging from IBM’s storage and services divisions as well as an industry consultant, attendees were bombarded with images and information regarding the plans that IBM has for data. While no major product releases were announced, what it did was to reiterate to the press and some 100+ customers, IBM’s focus on storage.

Some 17 percent of total IT hardware spending in 2003 will be on storage, up from only 4 percent in 1999, according to IDC. The management of this storage will account for 7 to 8 times the amount spent on buying and installing that storage. This means that a company can no longer afford to treat data as a secondary concern.

Agreeing with Keene’s prognosis, Bob Mahoney, VP of Worldwide Storage Networking Sales, added that information is becoming the new currency of the information age. Effective management of this information is vital to the success of any company. Mahoney went on to say that the storage, retrieval, management and distribution of this content would determine the success and failure of a business. Don Bradford, general manager of IBM Global Services, feels that many companies are now attempting to centralize storage control using architecture such as SAN and NAS. Increased demand by end-users for "any time, any place and any device" access to data has resulted in the management of storage and data becoming a greater portion of a company's IT expense.

IBM envisages the storage of tomorrow moving from current decentralized, direct attached storage to a centralized network storage connected by fiber channels with high access and utilization by users. But while companies may be willing to allow a third party to manage their storage, Bradford said that IBM has found that the companies still want to retain control over their data as they recognize the significance of business data.

With this in mind, much of the data management will be done by external services vendors working together with in-house technicians. IBM has established four interoperability centers over the world where IBM storage devices are shown to work with different operating systems to maintain 24/7 access. IBM, along with its partners, has also set up 78 total storage solution centers, 10 of which are in the ASEAN region. IBM hopes that this number will grow to 100 by mid-2001.

To help secure a greater portion of this services market, IBM in conjunction with channel partner Tivoli, have introduced a number of initiatives to deal with storage management in complex heterogeneous environments.

Larry Logue, Tivoli Storage Product Line manager, IBM Asia Pacific, spoke about the depth and breadth that Tivoli storage products can offer to users, with their management of data, storage processors and networks, as well as data protection and availability over some 30 operating systems.

Other vendors like Hewlett-Packard also agree storage is gaining importance. HP recently consolidated six separate product divisions under a single umbrella group called the HP Storage Organization.

"Storage is now the focal point of IT purchases, and servers are secondary," said Mike Matson, acting general manager and vice president of the new organization. "We are starting to see storage as more of an independent purchase from servers."

In March, Sun Microsystems, facing slowing growth in the server market, took steps to turn itself into a data storage shop. This was in spite of skepticism that the network computer maker could shift into a new business successfully. Sun's share of global storage sales grew from 8.7 percent of the market last year to 10.4 percent. The T3 storage system, which formed the backbone of Sun's vision of open storage networks, proved to be the most popular.

EMC, which previously dominated the enterprise storage market with its support for the AS 400 server, is now finding its core business under attack from these companies that have become players in the storage market. Previously a storage partner with HP, EMC found itself dropped in favor of Hitachi Data Systems.