The demand for storage capacity across enterprises is increasingly exponentially.

Analyst group IDC predicts that, between now and 2020, the amount of digital information created and replicated in the world will grow to almost inconceivable levels.

In 2010 IDC estimates that the digital universe grew to 1.2 million Petabytes, or 1.2 Zettabytes. This explosive growth means that by 2020, total volume of digital content will be 44 times as large as it was in 2009. This volume of data, if burnt onto DVDs would create a stack of discs reaching halfway from the earth to Mars.

The IDC May 2010 report entitled The Digital Universe Decade — Are You Ready? warns that this deluge of digital data is having profound implications for commercial storage systems.

As consumer technologies continue to enter the workplace stresses and strains will emerge as organisations battle to manage, store, protect, and dispose of all this electronic content.

This view was echoed by Gartner, which estimated that in 2010, there continued to be up to 80 per cent annual volume growth rates for traditional content types, including simple unstructured data.

According to Gartner, managing corporate data must be a top-down, not an IT, initiative.

"Organisations must recognise and emulate best practices for the establishment of an information management group that includes IT, compliance and legal teams, and line-of-business owners, with this collective team focused on managing information according to its values," the analyst company noted in a recent advisory note.

Experts agree that a major technology driver in the medium term will be the transition from hard drive to solid state storage. In 2012 and beyond, Gartner advises CIOs to have increasing confidence in the enterprise solid-state-drive (SSD) solutions offered by a variety of vendors.

Dave Longson, IBM UK and Ireland Storage CTO argues that widespread moves to virtualisation are heavily affecting the enterprise storage landscape and improving management.

"Virtualisation has allowed us to better manage heterogeneous storage with less waste, improved availability and easier data mobility — in other words as a business commodity like any other. Current steps are aimed at making this much easier and smarter, such that the virtualisation layer in a datacentre takes care of data tiering and performance automatically," he said.

And, as with most areas of enterprise IT today, migrations toward cloud computing are having an impact.

Although Longson believes that storage cloud is in the early adoption phase, he added that — for a variety of technical and physical reasons — public storage only clouds have some specific use cases (archive, backup retention or file serving). Other storage capabilities are best provisioned close to the servers (transactional environments or backup) for the low latency and high bandwidths needed.

"Cloud, as a means of gaining simplicity and economies of scale, is unique and for many clients it will be the way forward for some or all of their compute and storage workloads. However, there will be clients for whom other issues will take precedence and cause them to continue providing their own storage and compute facilities, in this context private cloud is very important along with the next generation of autonomic service management features and sophisticated analytics to better manage the whole IT estate," Longson noted.

In quantitative terms worldwide external disk storage systems factory revenues are estimated to have posted year-over-year growth of 16.2 per cent, totalling just under $6.1bn (£3.7bn), in the fourth quarter of 2010.

According to the latest IDC Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker, for the quarter, the total disk storage systems market grew to just below $8.3bn (£5.1bn) in sales. Total disk storage systems capacity shipped reached 5,127 petabytes, growing 55.7 per cent year over year.

Liz Conner, senior research analyst, Storage Systems for IDC, said that EMC maintained its lead in the external disk storage systems market with 26.0 per cent revenue share in the fourth quarter, followed by IBM in second and HP in third with 16.3 per cent and 11.6 per cent market share respectively.

Pic: Marcin Wichary cc2.0