Looking back: Top 10 storage trends of 2008

New technologies and the falling cost of advanced features highlight a year of storage alternatives

1. Solid-state storage. Many of the major hard drive vendors and SAN vendors announced flash-based solid-state drives (SSDs) this year. In enterprise systems, SSDs can accelerate performance, creating a tier 0 with better performance than the standard tier 1 15,000-rpm drives, and at lower operating costs. In laptops, SSDs offer power savings and greater shock resistance than standard hard drives. Although adoption has been slow in both areas due to very high price per gigabyte compared with spinning disk, prices are dropping rapidly as volumes grow. As vendors address the issue of limited lifespans for SSDs in enterprise systems, adoption should accelerate, though initial adoption will probably be for small tier 0 arrays to replace expensive cache memory.

2. iSCSI. As iSCSI becomes mainstream, functionality and ease of use continue to get better. iSCSI attracts a lot of attention because it can run over a standard 1Gbps Ethernet network without expensive HBAs and Fibre Channel switches. Furthermore, many SAN vendors offer iSCSI connectivity options on their SAN systems, providing high-end features (from replication and snapshots to automated data migration and thin provisioning) at lower costs with the option to upgrade to Fibre Channel where performance is a higher priority.

3. Low-end NAS boxes. Using SATA drives and inexpensive RAID adapters, many vendors are offering inexpensive, compact NAS systems with capacities of 1TB to 4TB (costing less than $700 for 2TB, and less than $300 for 1TB). Small businesses and even home users can afford a NAS system to share files and back up PCs.

4. High-end features in low-cost SAN and NAS systems. Features once seen only in a select few high-end, enterprise-class systems (such as thin provisioning and creating special high-speed volumes that use only the outermost tracks of each disk) are now becoming available on less expensive systems from smaller vendors. As smaller vendors find ways to provide innovative features at low cost, the bigger vendors have to work even harder to find new ways to keep their customers happy.

5. Adoption of disk-to-disk backup continues to grow. There are so many issues revolving around getting data back off of tape, especially if it's stored off-site, that many organizations now have three layers of storage: online high-performance storage, near-line secondary storage for restoring lost files or whole servers, and off-line backups in case of dire extremity only.

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