Storage spending focused on data consolidation, fast ROI

TheInfoPro study finds 45% of Fortune 1000 firms plan to boost storage spending this year

A study released today by research firm TheInfoPro showed that those in charge of IT dollars at corporations around the U.S. and Europe are focused on buying technology that can optimize systems they are already using.

For example, the study concluded that companies are spending significant dollars on thin provisioning, which allocates storage capacity on an as-needed basis for apps, and data de-duplication technology, which eliminates duplicate files or blocks of data either at the primary storage layer or during backups.

On the other hand, TheInfoPro's survey found that few companies are deploying new business applications, which would, in-turn, drive new data storage technology purchases.

"Major spending increases won't resume until new business application installs once again create massive demands on storage needs," said Rob Stevenson, managing director of storage research at TheInfoPro. "In the interim, storage shops will focus on productivity improvement and hardware inventory adjustments to prepare for virtualization and cloud support needs."

TheInfoPro's study, which is based on interviews with storage decision makers in North America and Europe, revealed that while 45% of Fortune 1000 respondents plan to increase storage spending in the coming months, 29% still expect major budget cuts. In contrast, 41% of midsized enterprises plan to increase storage spending this year, while 25% expect further budget reductions.

Among the top technologies in TheInfoPro's so-called "Heat Indexes", which identify trends in early technology adoption for both Fortune 1000 and mid-sized enterprises, were: E-mail archiving, information lifecycle management and storage resource management systems, said Ken Male, TheInfoPro's executive vice chairman.

The average Fortune 1000 company has about 1.2 petabytes of disk-based data storage capacity today, so anything that will help manage the data tsunami or trim excess data is hot, Male added.

"Those technologies are top of mind because budgets are so tight right now," Male said. "It's a little bit of back to the future. These were technologies folks were interested in a few years ago and are becoming popular again because they help to forestall additional IT purchases. We're seeing smaller spends on things that will bring a fast ROI."

TheInfoPro's study found that IT managers are interested in solid state drives (SSD), but concluded that sales won't take off this year. According to Male, only about 50% of Fortune 1000 companies currently have SSD technology earmarked in their future technology spending plans. "There's interest, but it's not as top of mind as the market would like to say it is," he said.

TheInfoPro's survey did find a trend toward the adoption of automated data tiering and automated data provisioning, as well as backup virtualization management, or being able to manage the backup of an entire data center's virtual server environment from a single console.

To take advantage of that trend, EMC rolled out its fully automated storage tiering (FAST) technology across its Symmetrix, Clariion and Celerra line of storage arrays, while IBM introduced additions to its XIV grid storage system and its automated tiering capability.

"Hitachi Data Systems is working on automated tiering technology as well," Male said.

Another hot area for upcoming spending is 8Gbit/sec Fibre Channel and virtual server data management, which leaves Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) deployment lagging, TheInfoPro found.

Male said data transfer protocols that converge LAN and storage area network (SAN) traffic, such as the FCoE and iSCSI protocols, are gaining popularity, but that significant market adoption won't take place until late 2011. "We are seeing more of IP-SAN [such as iSCSI] and NAS [network-attached storage] getting more mind share as storage for virtual servers," he said.

Male said for the next 18 months or so, IT decision makers are choosing to continue using 4Gbit/sec Fibre Channel, or will be moving to 8Gbit/sec Fibre Channel.

"People are very comfortable right now with 4Gbit Fibre Channel," he said. "They'll go to 8Gbit when they begin doing refreshes."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian, send e-mail to lmearian@computerworld.com or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed .

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