Storage sales are down dramatically this year, and indications are that it could be quite a while before things get back to normal, if ever.
So what are the two things storage companies can do to weather the storm? Make their systems better and cheaper.
That seems to be the trend gripping the industry right now: Make things better to differentiate their products through improved manageability and features, and cheaper in order to tap into the lower end of the market where enterprises still need additional storage but may not be ready yet for virtualization or the cloud.
Take the new High Availability Manager for Hitachi's Storage Platform V. The company committed itself to a high-end storage system just as demand for that level of investment was starting to wane. To keep things interesting, the new software provides for seamless, transparent pooling across physical and virtual storage clusters, providing not only seamless replication and backup but completely non-disruptive failover and recovery in case of a serious outage.
Fujitsu is taking a different approach by both consolidating its storage line-up and focusing on providing advanced features in an entry-level product. The company has introduced two new RAID systems, the Eternus DX60 and DX80, and has folded the CentricStor VTL and FibreCAT TX tape systems into the line, renaming them the Eternus CS and Eternus LT. The aim is to bring small firms into the Fujitsu platform through advanced features like idle-disk shutdown, snapshotting and enterprise-class data protection and encryption, as well as support for 4 or 8 Gbps Fibre Channel.
Smaller storage companies are also adding to their portfolios, even those aimed at larger customers. Isilon Systems, for one, has come out with new versions of its OneFS operating system and SyncIQ replication package designed to bolster its scale-out NAS technology's ability to cope with larger data requirements. The new OneFS 5.5 package now handles up to 5 PB of data and can deliver 45 Gbps throughput for 1.7 million IOPS in a single file system. SyncIQ 2.5 boosts the speed of file-based replication across multiple shared storage systems.
For every rule, though, there is an exception. While Infortrend is adding new capabilities to its RAID systems, the goal is to expand up-market to mid-tier enterprise environments. The company recently launched the Enterprise Scalable Virtualised Architecture (ESVA) designed for both iSCSI and Fibre Channel environments and outfitted with up to 64 1 TB SAS drives. The systems are designed around a new set of services, including the SANwatch package of virtualization, thin provisioning and snapshot capabilities.
All of these advances are proof that even during down times, there is still plenty of wiggle room to keep hardware systems moving through the channel. The challenge, though, is to convince customers that new hardware investments are still a vital component of enterprises' overall IT strategies.