Among retention and protection solutions, uptake in hierarchical storage management is strong STORAGE software, especially that for data management, will continue to register growth as enterprises are increasingly concerned about data retention and protection. Technology market researcher IDC said in a recent report that the storage software market had grown 15 per cent year on year to US$2.1 billion in the first quarter of this year and attributed that market expansion to continued customer spending on software for data protection, storage resource management and compliance. Among data retention and protection solutions, uptake in hierarchical storage management (HSM) - software tools which automatically move data between faster and slower storage media according to access needs to minimise cost - and archiving software are particularly strong. Raymond Paquet, a research director at Gartner, said: 'IT shops perceive managing e-mails and files as more likely to be 'pain points' than other areas within the storage and information infrastructure. 'That's largely due to the huge number of such messages. And the situation is further complicated by the fact that determining the value of information from a file is nearly impossible.' Gartner projected HSM and archiving software would grow at a compound annual rate of 33.2 per cent to US$1.4 billion in 2009 from US$326 million last year. Data retention and protection is also important because removing old data from the active storage space as the amount of data grows will improve application performance and reduce the time to backup and recover. Carolyn DiCenzo, an analyst at Gartner, said archiving was a better approach in the long run than mere file backup. And, as the use of HSM and archiving software become more pervasive, fewer backups will be required. Compliance requirements, which have become a key driver of storage hardware and software growth, are a major catalyst for growth in demand for data retention and protection solutions. Tom Zack, vice-president, marketing and operations, Asia-Pacific, at Hitachi Data Systems, said regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley and Basel II, had raised data retention needs among multinational companies, but governments in Asia-Pacific could soon take steps towards tightening regulations, leaving local players with similar data management challenges. 'For instance, with Hong Kong's position as a regional finance centre for Asia, there is clearly a huge focus on this in the local market,' he said. Compliance issues and disaster recovery concerns are also driving growth in data replication software, which creates and manages duplicate versions of a database so multiple users can work on the same database. Gartner expects demand for data replication software to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14.3 per cent to 2009 from last year. Growth in demand for backup tools is expected to be slow at a compound rate of 1.2 per cent, although the distinction between backup and replication have become increasingly blurred as more functionality is being added to backup solutions. Ms DiCenzo said such products would be aimed more at small and medium-sized businesses at lower price points. StorageTek North Asia's Hong Kong country manager Betty Lin said the adoption of information lifecycle strategies was giving rise to growth in the broader data management and protection software market. 'We have been seeing companies with information lifecycle management [ILM] strategies that are also the customers of such software. You need these software applications to help enable ILM,' she said. ILM is an approach to information management that takes into account the ways that information and its value change with time. The concept employs automated data migration to move data across different storage resources based on predefined criteria and policies. Firms that adopt data retention and data protection tools include banks, insurance agencies and governments. However, Mr Zack said he was also starting to see interest from other industries such as retail and manufacturing in the Asia-Pacific market. Ms DiCenzo warned prospective buyers to choose their data management solutions carefully and view products marketed as solutions designed to handle specific compliance requirements with caution. 'Customers must look beyond the hype to determine exactly how a specific storage product will fit into their process,' Ms DiCenzo said. Despite signs of growth in storage software in the Asia-Pacific market, old habits die hard. Ms Lin said users in the region continued to place a higher value on hardware than software and the situation was no different in the storage realm, despite the cost savings offered by storage management software. 'Changing such behaviour is easier said than done,' Ms Lin said. Getting SMEs to recognise the value of data management tools is another big challenge, but with potentially great rewards for vendors that succeed.