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EMC: Bandwidth will change the course of storage

Dramatic reductions in the cost of network bandwidth will transform the storage market, and EMC is ready to change with it, claims the company's senior vice president and chief technology officer, Jim Rothnie.

EMC is focused on storage area networks (SANs) and network attached storage (NAS), both growing markets, Rothnie said in a Webcast from the Credit Suisse First Boston Communications Technology Conference. "We tend to lump them together in our thinking because it's clear that going forward, the technology is going to blur the distinction between the categories," he added.

Rothnie predicted that by 2005, the buzz phrases would be "free and infinite bandwidth" and "free and infinite storage". While that might not be technically true, both bandwidth and storage will increase by huge margins in the next four years, he said.

"There are 20 million miles of fibre today, there will be 1 billion by 2005. And with dense wavelength-division multiplexing (DWDM), it looks like there will be something like a 20,000-fold increase in carrying capacity," Rothnie said.

Storage will also radically change, with prices dropping dramatically, and the price of getting information from one place to another will be significantly cheaper, he predicted. Falling data transmission costs will mean we can rethink where we store information.

"The storage on PCs is really there because of the weakness in the communications infrastructure. As this infrastructure strengthens and strengthens, it will encourage the data to rest somewhere else," he said.

Rothnie suggested we think of storage in the same way we think of money, with cash machines everywhere, accessible 24 hours a day. "We don't need to keep all of our cash on hand, and in the future, the same will be true of our data. We won't need it on hand, but it will be there when we want it," he said.

The data will rest with large corporations and large service centres, or "information plants", he said.

These information plants will have four layers, the physical layer, which will consist of the hardware fundamentals, the functionality layer, which will include functions such as optimisation and replication, the connectivity layer, which will work with interoperability between components, and the management layer, which ties the bundle together, Rothnie explained.

EMC's third-quarter earnings report, filed last month, showed a 20% year-on-year increase in diluted earnings per share and net income, and a 29% increase in consolidated revenue.

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