Marvin Walling, an engineer at Lockheed Martin, said the job of managing several terabytes of data has become a complex configuration of storage boxes. What the industry needs now is "out-of-the-box integration", he said.
"We want seamless data storage. We want reliable backup, and recovery and cost reductions. We want more for less," said Walling.
Getting more for less was a common theme at the Storage Networking World conference in Orlando this week. IT managers said cost cutting has forced them to view projects from a total-cost-of-ownership and return-on-investment approach. Most are turning to software developers to help address those issues.
Alex Gurvich, assistant vice-president of GE Equity's technology group, said the slowdown in IT spending could delay efforts to produce new technology.
"You need interoperability and storage management simplicity," said Walling, adding that storage grows by 100% a year. "The budgets are seeing single-digit growth or are flat, and you are being asked to do more with less."
Enterprise Storage Group analyst Steve Duplessie said most storage vendors do not consider how their products can affect a large company's IT infrastructure.
Kurt Bahrs, disaster recovery specialist at Aetna, wants a tool that can monitor his data end-to-end, and do backup and recovery, whether it is on a global storage area network (SAN) or a local area network (LAN).
"I want to get away from NT and midrange storage boxes," said Bahrs. "I want to put everything on a unified storage, to save on my footprint space and cut down on recovery time."
Another problem is that there are too many storage vendors with proprietary solutions that will not tie into existing systems, Bahrs said.
Several chief executives at top technology vendors were critical of their own industry, questioning the production of new products at a break-neck pace without first determining the needs of IT managers.
"We hardly know anything about fibre channel, and yet we're lurching forward into IP storage, Infiniband and my favourite, virtualisation," said Peter van Oppen, chairman and chief executive of Advanced Digital Information. "The customer is in a chaotic, messy and sloppy environment."
StorageTek chief executive Patrick Martin said a lack of standards and planning has led to confusion in the industry. "Users don't leave it up to vendors to develop those standards," he told delegates.
There are two things that chief information officers can be sure of, said Martin. One company cannot provide all the solutions, and technology that integrates islands of computing makes things more complex.
Greg Reyes, chief executive of fibre channel switch vendor Brocade, said vendors should explain technology and its benefits in plain English, and "get beyond the technical jargon".