The best storage systems, used properly, can make a business run better. Millennium Chemicals Inc., a company with 4,000 employees around the world, learned that last year when it deployed storage-management software from OSI Software Inc. to replace Excel spreadsheets used for recording and sharing manufacturing data in monthly reports. "Site directors wanted daily reports they could look at before they drove to the plant," says Steve Sarnecki, global director for process controls. OSI's management software collects and replicates data, which is fed into an SAP R/3 system that Millennium uses to manage global plant information. "Now engineers, operators, and plant management share data so they can make more-accurate decisions in a more-timely fashion," he says.
OSI is working with Millennium to get the software to manage more than storage; later this year, it will monitor the real-time costs of production and set off alarms when pumps need servicing so they don't break down.
The growing sophistication of storage-management software will continue this year as business-technology managers demand greater control over their data in order to make more-informed decisions. The software will gain new capabilities in the coming years as leading storage vendors such as EMC, IBM, Storage Technology, and Veritas Software introduce products and add features to existing management tools. "We still see growth in storage software because there are still problems managing the storage architecture," says Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer at Veritas.
Leap Of Faith
Profile: Challenger across most storage sectors
New Products: Version of Tru North storage-management software, with policy-management similar to plug-compatible mainframes Hitachi used to sell; a family of storage blades, filers, and gateways.
Strengths: Commitment: Hitachi paid $2 billion-plus last year for IBM hard-disk operations and rolled out the Lightning high-end storage system in May to rival EMC.
Strategy: Blur lines around storage. Lightning version may arrive late this year. Hints about driving systems intelligence to storage network itself, where storage blades may play a role. "We'll all live in a device that's not a server or a storage system," says Christine Wallis, senior VP, global strategy and planning.
Those problems are more important because of storage's key role in providing real-time information, as well as monitoring application performance, supporting round-the-clock transactions, and ensuring business continuity and disaster recovery. In the past, storage was merely part of the hardware that came with a computer, and it did little more than hold software and data. Now, better management software has made storage a more integral part of IT architectures. Vendors are adding features so their storage-management products can map, monitor, and interact with all of a company's storage resources, regardless of the maker. Visualization and virtualization features let administrators control that storage as if it were a single resource, resulting in fewer half-empty hard disks. New features also help managers better analyze how storage works with specific applications to improve performance.
In the coming year, storage vendors will roll out software designed to make storage less expensive, easier to manage, more useful in providing real-time information, quicker at restoring systems after a disturbance or disaster, and more efficient in storing data and delivering the right information to the right person at the right time. Indeed, sales of storage-management software, which grew from $5.3 billion in 2000 to $8.5 billion last year, should hit $16.7 billion in 2005, Gartner Dataquest predicts. EMC, IBM, and Veritas are the leaders, with double-digit market share; other vendors each have less than 5% of the market.
On the hardware side, market leaders are EMC; Hitachi, which bought IBM's hard-disk operations; and Hewlett-Packard/Compaq. Because of falling prices, companies spend less on storage hardware; sales of disk storage fell from $17.4 billion in 2001 to $13.3 billion last year, according to IDC. The sales decline, however, is mostly attributed to a steady drop in the price of a megabyte of storage, by about 40% a year for the past several years.