Storage: Services in the cloud will meet tomorrow's storage needs

Despite vendor promises, managing storage is getting harder, not easier. Storage vendors boast of smart applications that ease storage management to the point that a caveman could do it. They promise tools that discover neighboring devices and servers without human assistance - and that automatically configure themselves accordingly.

As is often the case with sales pitches, those claims are partly true (or only half lies). Make a small detour from the standard configuration, and the easy setup promised by such tools fails miserably, leaving inexperienced admins to fend for themselves.

Even the much-touted simplicity of iSCSI SANs has failed to materialize. For a novice, the advantage of iSCSI over FC (Fibre Channel) boils down to not having to learn another class of switches and networking gear. But getting iSCSI hosts and target devices to work together requires skills that were never needed to manage a LAN. To add insult to injury, most storage management suites completely ignore iSCSI. And new technologies on the horizon, such as FCoE (Fibre Channel over Ethernet), will only add complexity to the administrative puzzle.

How will customers cope with the conflicting needs for increased capacity and cost effectiveness? For many, SAAS (storage as a service) will be the answer: Instead of paying through the nose for storage devices and their maintenance, CIOs will find it more convenient to rent storage space - and divert the money and resources saved to more strategic projects.

Initially, SAAS will be sparked by faster and more affordable bandwidth, along with the surplus capacity of titans Amazon, Google, and the like. Other vendors will follow, creating Internet-based storage services of unprecedented size that will undercut that market domination of such companies as EMC, HP, and IBM.

SAAS will make storage more affordable and granular - you pay for what you use and no more. Best of all, it will empower customers to deploy technologies whose storage costs would have been otherwise prohibitive.

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