According to PriMetrica Inc. (www.storagewatch.com), 190 storage vendors—the majority being start-ups—have received funding over the last two years. I've been covering the IT industry for 20 years, and I've never seen anything this crazy. (Well, there was that dot.com thing, but...)
Some of the start-ups have already gone fins up, but most are still swimming. The lucky ones have been acquired. Most recently, that list includes Pirus Networks (by Sun), Prisa Networks (by EMC), and TrelliSoft (by IBM).
One reason why the unbelievable amount of VC cash has flowed into storage start-ups is the two-year-old assumption that companies' storage capacity will grow at about 100% per year on average. If that were the case, then all this start-up funding might have been justified. But it isn't. According to a PriMetrica survey of end-user organizations, companies with more than 5TB will grow capacity at about 33% per year, and companies with less than 5TB will increase capacity by about 20% per year. Capacities at companies with around 25TB will grow at about 26% per year.
That's a very healthy growth rate, particularly in this economy, but it's a far cry from 100% per year.
Obviously, the IT storage market can't sustain the influx of start-ups, which is unfortunate, because many start-ups—particularly software companies—have innovative technology that can save you a lot of time and money.
Most of the hardware-centric start-ups have yet to see the light of day, and some burned out in ignominious fashion (e.g., Cereva Networks). With a few exceptions, the start-ups that billed themselves as EMC/NetApp/Brocade killers are still lingering in stealth mode at a burn rate that spells burnout.
For end users, the good thing about all this start-up activity—at least on the software front—is that it will plug the gaping holes in the big vendors' storage management software portfolios. That's the point behind acquisitions such as EMC-Prisa and IBM-TrelliSoft, as well as partnerships such as BMC-Invio.
All of the big storage management vendors want soup-to-nuts portfolios. That's good news for end users who want to one-stop shop for their management software. However, acquiring a start-up is easy; what's difficult is integrating the start-up's technology into a vendor's existing software portfolio.
As you evaluate storage management suites, be sure that all the functions are integrated seamlessly. If they're not, you might as well continue to cobble together software packages from different vendors, which may actually make your management headaches worse.
In this issue
Speaking of storage management software, be sure to check out "Applications-centric path to managing storage," John Webster's Special Report in this issue. Webster notes that "users don't manage storage in a vacuum. They manage applications. Managing the storage associated with those applications is only part of the job, albeit an increasingly time-consuming and stressful part."
Webster says that applications-managed storage may be the answer to the disconnect between applications management and storage management: "Applications-managed storage is a process of linking the requirements of the application directly to the storage environment, driving the needs of the application down through the storage stack and then automating a response to those needs."
Today, only a handful of vendors have storage management software that is application-aware, but all of the software vendors are working toward that goal, and you can expect significant progress next year.