Despite the dour economy, there's no such thing as a data recession. Budgets may be tight, but storage needs continue to surge. After all, state and local governments still must process information, move it and house it.
As the government becomes increasingly digital, storage area networks supplant the filing cabinets and cardboard storage boxes of the past. Database applications, large digital files and server virtualization are all driving data growth. This in turn calls for more storage systems and software to manage that infrastructure.
It's not surprising that storage market revenue declined in 2009. Vendors faced tremendous sales pressure in a battered economy, and technology improvements continued to reduce prices. But demand for capacity grew during that same period.
IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker shows that manufacturers shipped a whopping 2,345 petabytes of storage capacity in the second quarter of 2009, up 15.2 percent from the previous year.
"If you measure simply by storage market revenue, you're not seeing the whole picture," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst for StorageIO and author of The Green and Virtual Data Center. "Net storage capacity shipped increases by double digits year over year."
Many factors are driving storage requirements in government, Schulz notes. Consider IP surveillance: Audio and video consume hundreds of gigabytes. Health IT is taking off, human services and unemployment organizations have more claims to process than ever, and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spending must be tracked and retained.
As such, it's to be expected that demand for storage will continue to grow. The city of Albuquerque, for example, deployed a network attached storage device to accommodate a police application and rolled out a Fibre Channel SAN to handle e-mail and
"The nice thing is we can allocate for how much our users need. And if they need more, we can just give them more, whether it's a few gigabytes or up to 4 to 5TB," says Larry Vasey, systems programmer for Albuquerque.
No matter how much storage an organization requires, few have the luxury of a large IT budget these days. Now is the time to focus on storage technologies that boost efficiency and deliver the most bang for the buck. For example, consider turning to backup and recovery techniques, such as archiving, data replication, compression, deduplication and thin provisioning.
That's what Santa Clara County, Calif., did when it deployed a SAN to boost efficiency.
"There was too much waste before," says CIO Joyce Wing. "Now we can easily add and plan for growth versus doing everything in isolation. If someone needs more space, we can allocate it on the spot."
One thing is certain: Storage needs will continue to grow. Your best approach is to minimize them through smart deployment of technology.
There were a few bright spots in storage sales in 2009, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker. Released in October, the results for the second quarter show growth in entry-level storage systems priced at $15,000 and under.
In that category, iSCSI SAN makers enjoyed revenue gains of 57 percent from the same period in 2008. Fibre Channel, too, proved popular among entry-level systems. Sales were up 66.8 percent as buyers sought less-expensive storage solutions.