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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
MF: For those not in the industry, what's the best way to stay on top of new trends?
TC: There are a number of educational venues to both learn about the technology and growth of digital content storage, and to see the companies and applications that impact the way companies do business. One of the most innovative is the Storage Visions 2005 Conference being held in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) January 4-5, 2005 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Speakers from IBM Global Media and Entertainment, Intel, Microsoft Portable Media Center, the Motion Picture Association of America, Seagate Technology, StorageTek, and others will discuss how data storage integrates with content creation, content delivery, and home, auto, and mobile consumer electronics systems. Storage Visions is also touring scenic destinations at CES to highlight trends and innovations in storing and managing digital content.
MF: What are some of the most innovative applications you see?
TC: There are several. Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and others are focusing on storage for cell phones; Motorola's G-3 phones will be multi-functional and have storage and video capabilities, needing the significant amounts of storage that only hard disk drives can provide. According to IDC, 2003 worldwide cell phone numbers were 536 million and will increase to 745 million in 2007. Eventually, all cell phones will have significant internal memory. Cell phones may also have removable memory so the user can switch his database among phones. Taking pictures may be for fun today, but we anticipate that the results of this activity will find their way into corporate databases tomorrow.
Entertainment digital content applications and users offer good glimpses into the storage future. Most future HDTV systems will have disk storage; Hitachi recently announced a 400 GB TV disk drive, which will store 400 hours of standard TV or video. Microsoft's Portable Media Player will be designed with at least 125 GB of storage capacity by 2007. The recently introduced players will also be designed to record and download high-definition as well as standard-definition video, and may include the ability to directly record video and connect to a wireless network.
At CES, the Storage Visions tour visits companies with next-generation optical disk formats and Blu-ray Disc and HD-DVD technologies that offer interesting choices for entertainment storage and the general business storage environment. These formats are being developed to enable the recording, rewriting, and playback of high-definition (HD) video, as well as storing large amounts of data. Blu-ray Disc (BD) is the name of a next-generation optical disc format jointly developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA), a group of consumer electronics and PC companies that include Dell, Hitachi, HP, JVC, LG, Mitsubishi, Panasonic, Pioneer, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, TDK, and Thomson. Toshiba Corporation and NEC lead the rival HD-DVD camp. With the rapid growth of HDTV, the consumer demand for recording HD programming is quickly rising. These next-generation optical formats are expected to replace VCRs and DVD recorders in the coming years, with the transition to HDTV, as well as becoming a standard for PC data storage and HD movies in the future.
Even if you do not attend Storage Visions 2005, you'll want to keep tabs on these innovative companies on Storage Visions' CES Storage Tour. A free, self-guided CES storage tour can be downloaded from the Storage Visions Web site.