The overall future for digital data storage remains excellent. The disk industry has reached a significant milestone, and new kinds of disks are driving an explosion of consumer and industrial applications. One of the most innovative "feeders" to the growth of storage is consumer applications. Enterprise storage users that create content for applications, like those in the entertainment industry and those that incorporate data from consumer electronics applications (e.g., digital cameras, phones, and GPS systems), are on the cutting edge of capacity, performance, and compliance demands to storage providers.
Enterprise storage users in more "traditional" fields can now peek into their compatriots' 2005 storage goody bag for a vision of what will come. To find out what's inside, we sat down with Tom Coughlin of Coughlin Associates and the organizer of the upcoming Storage Visions 2005 Conference, to hear his thoughts about developments on the horizon.
Marty Foltyn (MF): You speak about a milestone in the storage industry. What is it, and why is it important to enterprise storage users?
Tom Coughlin (TC): The third quarter of 2004 saw the disk drive industry ship its 2-billionth disk drive. Now known as hard magnetic digital disk drives, they are used in all computer applications, from home appliances and PVR/DVRs, to automobiles, cameras, and medical applications. Really, no matter where you look, you'll likely see a product that uses disk drive technology and owes its success to dramatic technology evolutions leading to smaller and smaller device sizes and substantial high-volume production efficiencies driving significant cost reduction per megabyte of capacity.
What is so interesting about the 2-billionth drive is a segment that has contributed to this milestone and its future. The disk drive industry will reach the 3.5 billion mark within the next threee-and-a-half years, and the fastest growing segment in unit growth is now consumer electronic applications. Consumer electronics (CE) disk drives will approach the numbers of disk drives used for conventional desktop computer applications, by 2010. New consumer electronics applications include automotive navigation systems, digital cameras, gaming systems, cellular phones, and personal video recorders. What's important to remember is that while these applications may seem to be consumer-oriented today, the data they create will soon find its way into companies as critical corporate data.
MF: Where will the disks that store this data be located?
TC: The projections for disk drives in various market niches over the next three years are quite interesting. Disks used in mobile and CE applications will grow quite favorably in relation to those in more traditional enterprise disk areas. We'll see relatively strong growth in ATA-based storage due to companies looking for the most cost effective solutions for their backup, archiving and disaster recovery. Figure 1 shows the projections. In particular, fixed content storage will drive the growth of ATA-based storage arrays.
Digital Content Life Cycle in Production and Distribution
Source: Tom Coughlin
MF: Are there any application areas using a lot of disk for storage today? What are they doing?
TC: Digital entertainment content creators are pioneering the use of storage in innovative ways. The enterprise storage IT folks of the large studios create vast amounts of content on a daily basis and are using large ATA storage arrays for storage. "Traditional" enterprise storage users can draw an analogy for their large data applications (e.g., maintaining fixed data for compliance requirements) and leverage the success of products targeted for the entertainment industry. Companies like Isilon and Data Direct are targeting specific solutions that have value over a wide range of industries that create, and therefore need to store, large amounts of important fixed content.
MF: How is data stored and accessed in the entertainment industry?
TC: This industry is focused on production and distribution of digital content. The value of the information decreases rapidly over time. IT organizations use a tiered storage strategy, migrating data down a chain from online to in-line to near-line to archive over a 180-day period. Figure 2 shows the digital content life cycle in production and distribution.
Annual Capacity Growth Projections vs. Operation With Digital Preservation
Source: Tom Coughlin
MF: Does it make sense to watch the entertainment industry down the road?
TC: Absolutely. We see no slack in the demand for data/disk storage through at least 2010. We see an ever-increasing number of digital content preservation applications driving an explosion of storage. In fact, by 2007, disk storage totals will approach 500 PB, with almost 200 PB networked. Figure 3 shows more detail.
HDD Market Niche Projections
Source: Tom Coughlin