2001 could have been a better year for the storage technology industry. But despite the hype surrounding virtualisation, IP storage, storage area network (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS) convergence, storage has not really taken off.
The problems the industry faced included the crippled economy, a dotcom hangover and confusing messages from competing storage suppliers, according to Ashok Kumar, an industry analyst for US Bancorp Piper Jaffray.
"The network storage industry had an abysmal year in 2001," Kumar said. "Only a year ago we were told by the storage industry that storage was not a discretionary purchase because IT users had an insatiable appetite for storage capacity."
Kumar said the main problem was one of standardisation. "The network storage industry is dysfunctional, behaving more like warring tribal leaders than an industry trying to move to the front of the IT value chain," he said.
As an example Brocade kept its technology proprietary for as long as possible, "stunting industry growth." He also pointed the finger at EMC's aggressive strategy over the course of 2001, saying it had a "negative impact" on the image of the storage industry as a market trying to serve customer needs first and foremost.
"The industry needs to agree on some common themes and language to further its cause," he added. "A prime example of the [storage] industry's [arcane] messaging is storage virtualisation."
Kumar said the promise of virtualisation was raised to such a level that storage networking companies tried to cast almost every technology innovation in 2001 as some type of virtualisation.
Dan Tanner, a senior analyst for storage and storage management with the Aberdeen Group believed there was some progress.
"Certainly because of the economy in general and the events of 11 September in particular, business-wise it was hardly a banner year, although I think progress has been made on several fronts," said Tanner, who added that those key fronts were storage virtualisation, IP storage, and SAN and NAS convergence.
"All three of these ideas have at the very least taken root, with some products appearing as well," Tanner said. He predicted that such technologies had taken root. "The concept of the network being the computer is becoming more true than ever," he explained.
The overall strategy for storage as far as Tanner is concerned involves making storage resources readily available through the Ethernet and Internet with IP storage. These storage resources are then distributed across the entire network with SAN and NAS convergence. Storage can then be managed as if it were one big pool of storage through virtualisation. This model is a far cry from the current jumble of individual, mixed-vendor servers that create the huge management headaches for IT administrators.