Internet giants Google and Yahoo! are solving the storage industry's next generation of problems, with the fact they are forced to create bespoke solutions to do so is an indicator of an immature industry, according to IDC's top storage analyst.
Speaking exclusively to searchstorage.com.au, IDC's Vice-President for Storage Systems Richard Villars said that Google alone accounts for 8% of all enterprise storage purchases. With enterprise storage at 15% to 20% of all storage sales, this makes Google responsible for over 1% of all storage sales and, he says, one of Seagate's largest customers into the bargain.
The company is also pioneering new storage techniques because hardware and software providers alike simply are not offering the technologies it needs.
"90% of the technology from the storage industry is irrelevant," Villars said.
But that lack of relevance is not surprising, given the storage industry's youth.
"We've had spinning disks for fifty years, but we've really only been using disk arrays for ten," he said. Current management tools therefore reflect the industry's short life through their inability to elegantly deliver the solutions that can be imagined.
Villars is nonetheless impressed with recent advances, praising virtualisation as a significant accomplishment that has created clear operational benefits while also enhancing disaster recovery.
But he warns that data proliferation is eroding many of those benefits.
"Business units want their own copy of data so they can do data mining or other operations," he said. The result is that organisations create multiple copies of the same data, undermining the benefits that come from centralised storage and increasing costs.
Businesses are fighting back against these trends by adapting ideas like tiered storage. "We are starting to hear about organisations using a 'Zero Tier' of storage," in the form of an extra layer of solid state storage that makes data mining possible without disrupting applications' access to data.
But such organisations are the exception, he said, as "only about 40% of businesses have two tiers of storage."
Storage vendors are working hard to address these and other issues as they upgrade their offerings, with total cost of ownership "the next big thing" the industry will address as organisations rebel against the high labour costs required to administer large-scale storage systems.
Villars is not convinced, however, that the storage industry itself will deliver the breakthrough innovations businesses want.
"The real innovation is now coming from the likes of Google," he said. "They are redefining the rules for how storage gets done."