EMC’s Vision: Cheap, Bountiful Storage

Over the next several years, the “digitization” of daily life will
drive advances in the data storage technology and reduce prices of the
once-costly equipment, the CTO of industry leader EMC
told attendees of a Boston conference Wednesday.

James Rothnie‘s keynote address at Intermedia Group’s Enterprise Storage
Strategies Conference &
Expo occurs at a time when organizations are creating an unprecedented amount of digital data.

More “information” will be created in the next three years than in all of
history, Rothnie said, citing a well-publicized study from the University of California, Berkeley.
All that data — 90 percent of which is expected to be stored digital — has
to reside someplace.

Among the drivers: Rapid growth of digitized books, magazines, videos, music
and other “rich content” and “mass-access data” as the Internet becomes the
and more efficient delivery tool.

But even more taxing on storage resources, Rothnie said, will be so-called
“individual data,” or as he describes it, “the digital footprints each
of us leave behind
as we go about our daily lives.”

This trend is growing as enterprises move to digitize nearly every human
experience and interaction: communications (e-mail and voicemail), personal
(medical records, credit histories), commercial transactions (credit card purchases) and other

“Even when you buy a tube of toothpaste with cash, you leave a few bits
behind,” Rothnie said, adding that individual data will constitute 90
percent of future storage

The challenge for businesses will be to capture and store all this data, and
to do it cheaply and efficiently, making it readily accessible when and
where it’s needed.

The good news for IT execs: This is all happening under the peculiar
price-and-performance formula where prices drop dramatically while
performance grows
exponentially, which applies to many things in the hardware realm.

Rothnie said advances in technology — such as denser storage products —
and more bandwidth means the price of networked storage likely will fall
dramatically in
the next four years. Expect to see prices fall to one cent per megabyte of
storage in 2005, down from today’s 30-40 cents per megabyte, he said.

The massive expansion of the global optical network will result in a new
global information infrastructure, dictating new strategies for CIOs and IT
execs deploy network
storage, Rothnie said.

Raising the question of where content will be stored in the coming years,
Rothnie said that “free and infinite bandwidth” will lead corporations to
use more centralized
data storage rather than dispersed centers providing data to users on the edge of the

This will translate into fewer data centers that require less square
footage, less security requirements, and ultimately less people to manage
and run them. (However,
in light of Sept. 11, no organizations will expect to roll all their
facilities into one, he said.) By 2005, “individual data” won’t reside on
users’ desktops, he predicted.

For EMC, the current challenge is to devise new technology to make storage
work better and faster, sell more cheaply, and still give the
Hopkinton, Mass.,
firm the sales and profits that have vaulted it to the top spot in the
storage industry.

Rothnie, who as executive vice president and CTO oversees EMC’s strategies
for new storage products, said EMC will invest $10 billion from 2000 to 2005
storage R&D. Its three focus areas: increasing storage density,
improving storage connectivity and improving storage management technology.

Last year storage vendors sold $44 billion worth of equipment with EMC
accounting for a quarter of it. Rothnie expects hardware sales to grow to
$100 billion-plus
in 2005.

Across the industry, Rothnie said vendors shipped 200 petabytes of storage
in 2000; that is expected to jump to 10,000 petabytes in 2005. (Through the
first half of
2001, EMC shipped twice as much capacity as it shipped in the same period of
2001.) What vendors lose on storage pricing will be made up in sales volume.

Better storage density is considered the main driver for lowering storage
costs. Right now, density (typically, magnetic disks) is doubling every 10
to 11 months,
faster even than processor speeds are advancing. The speed of access devices
isn’t growing as fast, however; EMC is working on technology relating to
caching and
optimal data placement in storage systems, as well as automated systems to
better manage storage systems.

Another plus for companies buying systems will be EMC’s new Widesky initiative,
which will use software to manage equipment from other data storage vendors.
Widesky is part of EMC’s aggressive plan to right itself and “transform the
after a dismal

Editor’s note: The Enterprise Storage Strategies Conference was
presented by Intermedia Group, a part of INT Media Group, which also owns internet.com. For information on future conferences and seminars, click here.