Expanding the horizon

New mass storage technologies create opportunities for vendors <@VM>Mission-Critical Data <@VM>Strong Growth in Storage Market<@VM>Fiber Channel Matures

From mountains of paper documents to satellite imaging, the challenge that remains constant across all sectors of the federal government is the storage, retrieval and management of information.

Several factors — including the need to share that information with other agencies, businesses or state and local governments — are boosting deployment of mass storage solutions in the federal government. With the development and deployment of solutions like fiber channel and storage area networks, significant opportunities are on the horizon for storage equipment vendors.

"The Internet is leading to greater demands in mass storage. As with other organizations, the federal market can't seem to get enough storage, especially solutions that are simple to implement. We've been watching this market for nearly three years and have seen demand grow exponentially," said Max Caston, president of Boffin Limited, a manufacturer of storage products based in Burnsville, Minn.

"Network storage is the next wave of the future that is here today that will meet these growing demands. We believe this so much that we are currently building an entire line of network attachable products. ... The reality is that people need easy-to-use storage solutions that are plug-and-play, have a built-in server and can attach directly to the network," says Caston.

Beyond network-based storage, new technologies are also being made available to the federal government that will help reduce risk of technology obsolescence with local data storage equipment while improving performance and security.

Oakdale, Minn.-based Imation Corp., for instance is making its new SuperDisk technology available to federal government users. "The diskette is read/write compatible with existing diskette technology while providing 120 megabytes of storage," says Jon Siegel, global marketing manager for SuperDisk.

"It provides a way to evolve to the new storage capacities without having to abandon existing investments. Manufacturers are making this available to support any number of platforms that are being used by federal users, from notebooks to workstations. This technology is currently being deployed in the Air Force and Army as well as the military academies," he says.

Many mass storage vendors agree that the federal government, with its vast information resources, offers a significant market opportunity. "There's probably no other application other than the federal government that has those demands for storage, I would imagine," says Don Bell, president and CEO of San Jose, Calif.-based Bell Micro Products Inc. "Certainly they're one of the largest entities to consume memory products."

"Obviously the government is continuing to strive toward some kind of paperless environment," says Michael Hall, federal sales/major accounts manager of Chantilly, Va.-based Sony Electronics Inc. "The amount of information that is accumulated daily trying to keep track of that and efficiently store those records and retrieve them — just that alone is one area. Document image management is one area that continues to drive the federal market from a storage standpoint."

In the federal government's large data repositories (which can include data from the Internet, private intranets and other networks in which many users are linked) the amount of data that accumulates on an ongoing basis can be staggering. Couple that with the need for individual users to have access to that information and those dynamics appear to be key factors in the rising demand for robust storage solutions in the federal government.

"Information is power," Hall says. "It's money and it allows for quick decision-making."

As a result, storage vendors are seeing strategic shifts in how the federal government spends its money on storage solutions.

"First of all, IT dollars are being spent in a larger proportion on storage," says Mike Coney, director of federal sales for Veritas Inc. in Vienna, Va. "More and more money is being put into mass storage because pressure is being put on to capture more data."

"What I see taking place in the federal market with mass storage is a dollar shift," agrees John Tyrrell, solutions sales manager of federal sales at Southborough, Mass.-based Clariion. "When I think back seven years ago, the big shift was to put meaningful data on everyone's desktop. There was a rapid deployment of desktop PCs and workstations. Then everybody said we need to power these with some significant servers. Then we have to network the servers and the desktop together.

"That was the big shift with a little bit of storage attached to both the servers and the desktop devices. Then the big government industry shift came in the form of applications, especially databases. Now ... the bulk of the deal is in storage. Someone buys a standard, commercial, off-the-shelf server of some type for $50,000 and attaches a million dollars worth of storage to it. It's a complete reversal."

This reversal in many ways can be attributed to a shift in the priority of certain applications. Increasingly, applications such as data warehousing are moving front and center in the federal government space, industry observers say.

"In general, the major driver is that there is this high demand for information and there's also this huge abundance of information with the government," says Lesley Kao, a senior analyst with Mountain View, Calif.-based G2R.

"They have everything from millions of criminal records to millions of health records and welfare records and tax records. ... There's really a push, not just by citizens who want to be able to access that information, but also within governments. They want to be able to share that information and get rid of a lot of those redundancies. There is this push to utilize the information in a lot more effective way and not just have this information reside in separate mainframes. That's where you're beginning to see a lot of this archiving and especially data warehousing," Kao says.

"The largest growth area in the federal government is the area of data warehousing and data marts," agrees Chick Cairo, director of U.S. solutions channel sales for Clariion. "With all the information in the government and access to information that people are requiring, data warehouses have the ability to get at information in a variety of ways. On a smaller scale, data marts are also a major portion of what we do."
For government users, the surge in storage use is rooted in the fact that the data is critically important to the way business is conducted.

"If you're regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, you better have all your direct testing data available, and it should be protected against alteration," says Robin Harris, senior product manager of network storage organization in the Newark, Calif., offices of Sun Microsystems.

"Or if you're building airplanes or bridges, you'd better keep all of your drawings and all of your change orders in permanent storage, because you never know when there's going to be a requirement that you go back and detail everything that you've done to that particular product," Harris says.

"The increase in the amount of data being stored, in particular data being stored in environments where it's being shared by multiple applications and multiple users, that growth rate continues to increase at near logarithmic rates," says Dave Tang, vice president of marketing for San Jose, Calif.-based Gadzoox Networks Inc.

"That is certainly taxing some of the technologies that have traditionally been used to connect storage subsystems with servers that are used to access that data," says Tang. He says the government is one of the largest users of storage technologies. So to address its growth needs, technologies such as fiber channel for storage area networks are being used.

Another driving force behind the paradigm shift in the storage arena has been the needs and expectations of government customers, who increasingly view their data storage as an important part of their ongoing mission.

"Our customers [are] reviewing storage in a different way than they were three or four years ago," says Doug Fierro, manager of product marketing for Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp.

"How they're viewing storage today is not just a tagalong with the server, but it's actually an enabling technology that allows them to offload a lot of the functionality from the server, put it in the storage system and drive their IT architecture a lot more strategically than in the past," Fierro says.

This more strategic view of storage has raised the profile of storage technology considerably.

"I like to joke that storage has become sexy now," says Joyce Tompsett Becknell, director of distributed computing research for Newton, Mass.-based Cahners In-Stat Group.
For these and other reasons, the storage marketplace has been experiencing significant growth, and that growth is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, IT researchers say. The worldwide Unix disk storage system market reached $9.5 billion in 1997, growing approximately 20 percent from 1996, according to a report released earlier this year by Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp.

The much-touted fiber channel storage technology, which boasts greater distance and performance than traditional small computer serial interface (SCSI) technology, is beginning to come into its own as well, the IDC researchers say. Despite great exuberance among market participants, fiber channel did not truly take hold in 1997, largely because of component stability and interoperability issues. Nevertheless, IDC researchers believe that meaningful adoption of the technology is "imminent," and that fiber channel will capture a full 50 percent of the external open systems disk storage market by the end of 2000.

"With these new technologies that are coming along, we can enter into places where people were forced into tape libraries for approximately the same cost. But now you have random access capabilities. That's where we really see this [market] moving," says Ron Reynolds, vice president of marketing and sales for Milpitas, Calif.-based DISC Inc.

"The government will always be one of the major customers for this type of media. From storing personnel records like the Navy does on our equipment, to storing satellite information that's captured," says Reynolds.

Storage management is a critical issue as well for the federal government, and the market for products that enable that capability will grow significantly, according to a report released in June by San Jose, Calif.-based Dataquest. As government agencies and other enterprises look for more ways to handle storage management internally, the worldwide storage management software market is reaping the benefits, with revenue in 1997 surpassing $2 billion, an increase of 19 percent over 1996 results, according to Dataquest, a unit of Gartner Group Inc. The worldwide storage management market is forecast to reach $4.8 billion by 2002 according to Dataquest analysts.

Dataquest says this market is being driven by three key segments: core, backup/HSM (hierarchical storage management), and storage resource management (SRM). Core storage management, such as file systems, volume management and physical replication, are products that provide basic organization functions and ensure data integrity and availability by offering fast failure recovery and data redundancy. Core product vendor revenue reached $478.4 million in 1997. Backup/HSM products, which provide backup, restore, archive and HSM tools, reached $1.33 billion. SRM products, which manage properties of physical and logical storage resources such as media health, availability, space loading, performance connectivity and utilization, provided $210 million in revenue to vendors in 1997.

"In general, most of the public agency sectors with the growing amounts of data that are being collected and maintained by agencies such as Social Security Administration, [Internal Revenue Service], law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, need to increase the amount of storage that can be accessed not only by their main offices but by their remote offices," Gadzoox's Tang says. "So a storage area network environment enables them to continue to increase the amount of data that's being stored and accessed online."

Data warehousing also is experiencing strong growth, but some researchers see the IT resource drain resulting from year 2000 work affecting that rate of growth for the near future.
As the concept of storage area networks gains ground, government users and vendors increasingly are looking to fiber channel, a technology that links storage with servers or other storage devices, as a solution for the storage dilemma.

"In terms of government applications, anywhere a large amount of data is being stored, those are prime areas for the application of fiber channel," Tang says. "There are also some defense applications that are well-suited for fiber channel, particularly in the area of leveraging the benefits of fiber channel in that it supports both copper connections and fiber optic connections to transmit data."

"Fiber channel is going to be the next big thing in storage," Becknell says. Although there are still issues to be resolved — particularly standards — fiber channel offers users a world of new storage opportunities.

Fiber channel allows a many-to-many connection or many-to-one connection instead of a one-to-one connection, enabling users to share drives.

Perhaps the greatest advantages of fiber channel lie in the areas of speed and distance. The technology can deliver high-speed, high-capacity throughput of up to 100 megabytes per second — more than double the speed of traditional SCSI — and it enables users to physically separate servers from storage by up to 10 kilometers — more than 300 times the distance of SCSI. The technology also is seen by many as the key to achieving that key requirement for government users — storage area networks.

"Everything that's now in a database ... will still be there, plus all the information you collect over the next five years," says Mike Bingham, a sales representative for Reston, Va.-based Decision Support Systems Inc., a Gadzoox reseller. "So if you figure out what size they're running now — in the terabyte range — and you multiply that out by what they're going to pull in over the next five years, you can see why people really have to point to the very cutting-edge technologies such as fiber channel arbitrated loop is now."

"Fiber channel is really the enabling technology that brings this network model to storage for the first time," Harris says. "The SCSI technology that we've been using is very simple bus, it's very limited in its connectivity. Fiber channel was designed ... to be a great storage interconnect. To it was added some of this network-style technology such as support for switches or fabrics."

Although the dynamics may change in 10 years, Harris says fiber channel arbitrated loop can support up to 16 million nodes on a fabric, which means it could fill today's largest storage holes.

This article was prepared by The Washington News Bureau, an independent editorial firm based in Washington.

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