Storage hardware will be a commodity by 2007, according to Meta Group.
The analyst organisation predicted that mature, reliable storage systems, along with better compatibility and interoperability between equipment from different vendors, will leave software as the only differentiator.
Carl Greiner, senior vice president of Meta Group's infrastructure strategies advisory service, said this development would 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 demand for storage products has risen steadily during the past 12 to 18 months. It calculates that companies have deployed an average of 25-30 per cent extra data storage capacity in large storage arrays and data centre equipment.
Implementation of distributed and direct attached storage in smaller firms has grown by 45-50 per cent and 80-85 per cent respectively, it added.
But Paul Trowbridge, regional marketing director for storage hardware specialist 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 - you cannot buy a huge storage system in PC World, for example. 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.
Andy Stubley, product manager for storage specialist EMC, said storage manufacturers must now work to develop hardware and software-based storage solutions designed specifically to support ILM processes for customers to comply with expected corporate governance legislation.
"Information lifecycle management is about storing information relevant to its importance and accessibility, accepting that it has a varying value over time, and knowing when to delete it," he explained.
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