The storage industry is enjoying a boom currently thanks to the requirement for IT managers to keep everything. With the possibility of being sued any time by any company for no good reason at all, everyone is keeping everything, or at least all their data. Result? Loads and loads more kit being bought to the benefit of EMC, IBM, HP and every other supplier with any kind of storage product.
While its true that IBM System Storage grew yet again in 3Q07, exceeding our own internal business model, I would not call this an overall "boom" for the storage industry. While companies are growing in "TB capacity" by 30-50%, this translates only to single digit growth in terms of "Dollar revenues". This is because we continue to make storage with declining dollar-per-GB.
One should not confuse what people do with what people are required to do. I am not a lawyer, but most regulations pertaining to storage of information state that certain records need to be kept for a set amount of time, either a fixed period of years, or based on some event. For example, broker/dealers need to keep emails of their clients for six years after the client closes their brokerage account. After those six years, the records can be destroyed.
Unfortunately, many IT managers look at the laws and come up with the simplest solution: keep everything forever. While this might meet the regulators audit requirements, it does expose their employer to subpoenas for data that should have been deleted, and may not be very cost-effective.
The alternative for many IT managers involves having to leave their comfort zone, and talk to their legal counsel, the lines of business, and try to classify their data, determine a set of policies, and inact some forms of enforcement. This is perhaps the "scary" part of the storage of information, it has grown outside the walls of IT, forcing IT managers to interact with the rest of the business to get their jobs done.
Compliance is the only game in town and that is most certainly where the money is.
Anytime an analyst tells you that something is the "only game in town", they are usually wrong. In this case, IBM has had great success in other areas that are not compliance-related. For example, digital video surveillance (DVS) is being used not only to help reduce shoplifting, but also to help identify patterns in customers perusing through aisles and window-shopping. Identifying what people are interested in has proven effective in moving product displays around to better attract buyers and motivate them to make purchases.
Take, the keynote from Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM storage, and thus a man who is very much in a position to know. He spent his allotted 30 minutes, or whatever, listing all the security, compliance, threats and related issues that are currently making the jobs of most IT manager a cause for concern. Now, there is an argument that suggests that it is absolutely the right thing to do to frighten IT managers into sorting out their issues. They need shaking up say some. Especially analysts.
I helped develop the content of Andy's SNW presentation, working with his speech writers and graphic artists to make a consistent and coherent message fit in the 25 minutes he was given. The challenge with SNW is that we needed to make this presentation applicable across the entire storage industry, without sounding like an infomercial for IBM offerings.
Some people have compared the storage to the "insurance industry", claiming that backups, remote disk mirroring, continuous data protection and other storage related features are costs that can be compared to insurance you pay to protect your home, business, and other assets. You hope you never have to use it, and complain how much it costs, but when bad things happen, you hope it is the best money can buy.
Unlike Y2K, which was a one-time event that had a specific date of occurrence, the threats and risks mentioned by Andy in his presentation may never happen at all, or in other cases, may happen more than once, without knowing when or where. For the sake of your shareholders, and your stakeholders, it is best to be prepared for these possibilities.
The counter argument says that IT companies just smell the money.
Is this a counter argument? Can IBM not both help customers mitigate their risks, and at the same time, turn a profit? Trust me, you do not want to do business with any storage vendor that is not interested in making a profit. The better ones have incorporated addressing client's most pressing challenges into their strategy. I gave a quick summary of IBM's strategy last August in [Day 1 Storage Symposium].
Helping our clients mitigate risks is just one of IBM's core strengths. If you want to learn more, contact your local IBM Business Partner or storage rep.