Storage Management

Why is everyone so clueless about enterprise data storage?

Alex Wallner, senior VP and GM EMEA at NetApp, said recently that most of the company's customers have no idea what their storage requirements are going to be in three years' time.

As Niels Bohr once commented, prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. Even so, this seems an astounding state of affairs. Three-year predictions of business requirements are hardly unheard-of. Sure, they all come with caveats, but "no idea" – really?

In reality, it's harder than one might suppose to make predictions about storage requirements even a year ahead. Let's start with the basics first. Assume your organization will remain at its current size in headcount and revenue terms, or even grow slightly, in line with previous years (or shrink, but in that scenario you'd have more pressing issues than storage space). Unfortunately this has little to no bearing on the company's future storage requirements. Business processes are changing fast, and as they become more digital they generate more data, both internally and from customer interactions.

The phrase “big data” sounds quaintly old-fashioned now that we're in an era in which everything data-related is big by definition. Data storage requirements haven't followed a linear progression over the past three years – chances are your own firm's storage usage graph already looks asymptotic – so there's little reason to believe that they will in the next three. But just how much bigger will those requirements become? Hard to say, but there are plenty of reasons to think that the answer will be “A lot”.

Almost every business event generates data. Automation, for example, whether it replaces human employees or accompanies and augments them, generates swathes of it. Processes must be analyzed, performance tracked, every fine detail measured in order to ensure that automation does actually improve efficiency. All of this data must be stored.

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Alex Cruickshank

Alex Cruickshank has been writing about technology and business since 1994. He has lived in various far-flung places around the world and is now based in Berlin.  

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