Is There a Data and I/O Activity Recession?

February 28, 2009 – 10:40 am
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Storage I/O trends

With all the focus on both domestic and international economic woes and discussion of recessions and depressions and possible future rapid inflation, recent conversations with IT professionals from organizations of all size across different industry sectors and geographies prompted the question, is there also a data and I/O activity recession?

Here’s the premise, if you listen to current economic and financial reports as well as employment information, the immediate conclusion is that yes, there should also be an I recession in the form of contraction in the amount of data being processed, moved and stored which would also impact I/O (e.g. DAS,, LAN, SAN, FAN or NAS, MAN, WAN) networking activity as well. After all, the server, storage, I/O and networking vendors earnings are all being impacted right?

As is often the case, there is more to the story, certainly vendor earnings are down and some vendors are shipping less product than during corresponding periods from a year or more ago. Likewise, I continue to hear from both IT organizations, vars and vendors of lengthened sales cycles due to increased due diligence and more security of IT acquisitions meaning that sales and revenue forecasts continue to be very volatile with some vendors pulling back on their future financial guidance.

However, does that mean fewer servers, storage, I/O and networking components not to mention less software is being shipped? In some cases there is or has been a slow down. However in other cases, due to pricing pressures, increased performance and capacity density where more work can be done by fewer devices, consolidation, data footprint reduction, optimization, virtualization including VMware and other techniques, not to mention a decrease in some activity, there is less demand. On the other hand, while some retail vendors are seeing their business volume decrease, others such as Amazon are seeing continued heavy demand and activity.

Been on a trip lately through an airport? Granted the airlines have instituted capacity management (e.g. capacity planning) and fleet optimization to align the number of flights or frequency as well as aircraft type (tiering) to the demand. In some cases smaller planes, in other cases larger planes, for some more stops at a lower price (trade time for money) or in other cases shorter direct routes for a higher fee. The point being is that while there is an economic recession underway, and granted there are fewer flights, many if not most of those flights are full which means transactions and information to process by the airlines reservations and operational as well as customer relations and loyalty systems.

Mergers and acquisitions usually mean a reduction or consolidation of activity resulting in excess and surplus technologies, yet talking with some financial services organizations, over time some of their systems will be consolidated to achieve operating efficiency and synergies, near term, in some cases, there is the need for more IT resources to support the increased activity of supporting multiple applications, increased customer inquiry and conversion activity.

On a go forward basis, there is the need to support more applications and services that will generate more I/O activity to enable data to be moved, processed and stored. Not to mention, data being retained in multiple locations for longer periods of time to meet both compliance and non regulatory compliance requirements as well as for BC/DR and business intelligence (BI) or data mining for marketing and other purposes.

Speaking of the financial sector, while the economic value of most securities is depressed, and with the wild valuation swings in the stock markets, the result is more data to process, move and store on a daily basis, all of which continues to place more demand on IT infrastructure resources including servers, storage, I/O networking, software, facilities and the people to support them.

Dow Jones Trading Activity Volume
Dow Jones Trading Activity Volume (Courtesy of data360.org)

For example, the amount of Dow Jones trading activity is on a logarithmic upward trend curve in the example chart from data360.org which means more transactions selling and buying. The result of more transactions is that there are also an increase in the number of back-office functions for settlement, tracking, surveillance, customer inquiry and reporting among others activities. This means that more I/Os are generated with data to be moved, processed, replicated, backed-up with additional downstream activity and processing.

Shifting gears, same things with telephone and in particular cell phone traffic which indirectly relates on IT systems particular for support email and other messaging activity. Speaking of email, more and more emails are sent every day, granted many are spam, yet these all result in more activity as well as data.

What’s the point in all of this?

There is a common awareness among most IT professionals that there is more data generated and stored every year and that there is also an awareness of the increased threats and reliance upon data and information. However what’s either not as widely discussed is the increase in I/O and networking activity. That is, the space capacity often gets talked about, however, the I/O performance, response time, activity and data movement can be forgotten about or its importance to productivity diminished. So the point is, keep performance, response time, and latency in focus as well as IOPS and bandwidth when looking at, and planning IT infrastructure to avoid data center bottlenecks.

Finally for now, what’s your take, is there a data and/or I/O networking recession, or is it business and activity as usual?

Ok, nuff said.

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
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