Storage hardware will have become a tiered commodity by 2007, according to Meta Group.
The analyst predicted mature, reliable storage systems, and better compatibility and interoperability between equipment from different vendors, will leave software as the only differentiator.
Carl Greiner, senior vicepresident of Meta Group's infrastructure strategies advisory service, said this development will favour buyers.
"The good news is that IT organisations can select storage systems from robust competitive offerings, pursuing either a consolidated vendor approach to reduce storage management complexity or a 'best in class' approach to optimise the efficiency of each technology area," he said in a statement.
Meta Group estimated that the demand for storage products has risen steadily in the past 12 to 18 months. It calculated that companies have deployed an average of 25 to 30 per cent extra data storage capacity in large storage arrays and data centre equipment.
The implementation of distributed and direct-attached storage in smaller firms has grown by 45 to 50 per cent and 80 to 85 per cent respectively, it calculated.
But Paul Trowbridge, regional marketing director at storage hardware vendor Brocade, said the two main trends in the storage market - utility computing and information lifecycle management (ILM) - both rely on networked storage.
"Network storage hardware in itself is not a commodity. For example, you cannot buy a huge storage system in PC World. Although the focus of the market and the buyer is how you manage it using software, you still need the right hardware underneath," he said.
Trowbridge added that this is where the channel comes into play.
Andy Stubley, product manager at storage vendor EMC, believes manufacturers must work to develop hardware- and software-based storage solutions specifically designed to support ILM processes, which will help users comply with expected corporate governance legislation.
"ILM is about storing information that is relevant to its importance and accessibility, accepting that it has a varying value over time, and knowing when to delete it," he said.
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