Storage decisions move down corporate hierarchy

When Dick Kallmeyer began in the Sun storage business seven years ago, he could get to see a vice-president of a prospect company over a matter of a terabyte of storage, he says. 'Now that's just noise.'

When Dick Kallmeyer began in the Sun storage business seven years ago, he could get to see a vice-president of a prospect company over a matter of a terabyte of storage, he says. “Now that’s just noise.”

Kallmeyer is now manager of strategic accounts for global network storage sales - a key figure in the intended advance of Sun's storage business.

The seemingly never-ending growth in storage demand owes much to richer forms of digital information – the increasing commonality of graphics and video, says Kallmeyer, who visited New Zealand last month. Sun does a lot of storage business “on the entertainment side”. But the desire of businesses of all types to build a continuing relationship with the customer begets the need to keep a record of every interaction between suppler and customer, and a considerably greater amount of background information about the customer, which inflates the need for disk and tape.

Then there’s email. Surveys have shown, Kallmeyer says, that corporate staff keep on average nine copies of every email received – including attached documents and graphic information.

Half the cost of every server sale today is represented by storage, and that figure will rise to 75% over the next two years, he forecasts. That represents not only the cost of the storage itself, but the technology involved in interfacing storage to server and managing the whole relationship among various storage units and between storage and server.

Alongside, and helping to generate this growth is the fact that the cost of the hardware components to the storage manufacturer is rapidly decreasing – Kallmeyer estimates by 50% a year.

Knowing costs are more reasonable, users become more “sloppy” about deleting data they no longer need, he says, and this compounds the storage demand problem.

Sun has a quiet but significant role in the storage market. Kallemeyer claims it accounts for 26% of all terabytes sold in the Unix marketplace, with storage specialist EMC running at 18%.

Storage technology will be characterised not only by units of ever higher capacity but by smaller physical size. This is a matter of necessity; “we try to win performance by spinning the media faster, and unless we reduce the size of it, the speed exceeds the speed of sound at the outside edge of the disk.”

The next problem is how the data gets across from storage to server. Efforts to integrate the conventional storage protocol SCSI with IP, he says, will blur the distinctions between the storage area network (SAN) and network attached storage (NAS). In time, this will enable the two to “pull together” in a standard architecture which will use each in its own strong area – NAS for file-sharing and SAN from block data transfer. But there are significant problems to be conquered in reducing overhead - “SCSI is a very chatty protocol” and prioritising traffic.

On the storage management side, Sun has proposed a de facto standard in Jiro – Java-based middleware designed to connect storage resources to storage management applications in an “interoperable” way. According to the Jiro website, only three companies – Sun, Veritas and Crossroads - have Jiro-enabled technology. A much larger group, including Seagate, StorageTek, Fujitsu and Hitachi are cited as “supporters” – those companies “that have either shipped components that are Jiro technology enabled, or are in the process of using Jiro technology to create management components or management applications that leverage Jiro technology components.”

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