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Gauging the volume

What to expect in data storage and network traffic growth

By Joanie Wexler, Network World
January 03, 2011 06:06 AM ET

Network World - The hockey stick growth projections for data storage and network traffic don't look like they will level off anytime soon. So plan to stock up on disks (or get smarter about data management) and get ready to install fatter network pipes (or get more serious about WAN optimization).

Also read: Virtual, mobile, social endeavors drive IT in 2011

Data is growing in enterprise storage banks at 50% per year, says Tam Dell'Oro, founder and president of Dell'Oro Group, a research and consulting firm.

The average Fortune 1,000 company has about 1.2 petabytes of disk-based storage today (a PB being 1,000 terabytes), according to TheInfoPro. So, if these organizations continue to increase capacity at the rate suggested by Dell'Oro, they will need to accommodate about 9PB by 2015.

The trend is being fueled by changing work habits, increasingly stringent compliance mandates that require more electronic record-keeping and falling storage costs, according to Dell'Oro and others.

In terms of cost, IDC says the price per gigabyte of storage is declining by 25% to 30% per year. At that rate, it is often easier to add resources than try to squeeze more out of what you have.

"As you make something cheaper, people buy more of it," says Chuck Hollis, vice president and CTO at enterprise storage giant EMC. Hollis says EMC saw 12% more dollars spent on storage in 2010 than in 2009, even though unit prices were falling.

New developments in healthcare, utility, retail and other vertical industries are also driving the need to hold onto more data, Hollis says.

"Healthcare reform in the U.S. is driving monstrous numbers of digitization projects," he says, and there are direct financial incentives to get patient medical records converted into electronic form. "The more information they can digitize, the better healthcare they can provide."

Likewise, utilities running smart grids are collecting "billions and billions of records," and retailers are "storing data about customers, their behaviors and metrics" to better target merchandising and sales, Hollis adds.

Uncle Sam is also contributing to the load, says Dell'Oro. She points out that Sarbanes-Oxley regulations keep getting stricter, putting the squeeze on increasingly smaller companies and lower departmental levels. That results in more "stuff" getting socked away in virtual filing cabinets in case auditors come calling.

Similarly, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) continues to cover more ground. Consider telemedicine, which is yielding more video-based remote patient consultations.

"HIPAA requires you to store those video sessions," says Arielle Sumits, lead analyst on Cisco's 2010 Visual Network Index (VNI) report.

The VNI is an annual deep-dive into IP traffic growth that Cisco conducts.

It goes without saying that data storage growth translates into WAN traffic demands, but those demands are whipsawed by two macro trends: data centralization, a byproduct of data center consolidation; and worker dispersion, driven by efforts to get employees out in front of customers and accommodate telework and other flex employment options.

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