Storage Pie In The Sky
Storage, the least sexy member of the Iron Triangle of infrastructure, is getting more buzz — and the right kind of buzz. At the Wall St. Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference, Bill Gates stated that Microsoft is working on a variety of Internet services that would allow computer users to store data online such as digital images [sic] photos. ZDNet quoted the Gatester calling Microsoft’s storage cloud petabytes in the sky. I like that.

Microsoft Rolls Its Own
Further, the Chief Software Architect had some words about the economics of storage

Mr. Gates said the Internet storage service would be for consumers to back up a range of items, including digital photos. He said that the price of storage technology, such as disk drives, has fallen to a level that makes it feasible to offer a service with storage capacity. “The economics of that are getting better and better,” he said.

Gee, sounds like a big new market. Are they breaking out the Champagne in EMC’s Hopkinton HQ? Not likely. Microsoft has been building its own Windows-based storage server software for several years. Since the software is free to them, they could be cost competitive with Google’s GFS if they get rid of the management issues. So no joy for EMC or NetApp. Cool.

But not the only coolness.

A Roll In the Haystack
Over at CNet they’ve just started a new photo upload service using a homebrew storage system they’ve christened Haystack. No word on its architecture yet. Since it is intended for photo uploads and there is no search function or other niceties, I’m guessing it is a lot of disks attached to really cheap servers. All the photos are accessed by URL only. So a bunch of webservers with disks attached would seem to do the trick. I hope they say more soon.

Big Iron, Don’t Hear This
This is how disruptive technologies get started: with a silly little application like web-based photo storage. The big guys ignore it because they can’t make any money at it, while a bunch of fast moving (some of them, anyway) companies experiment and improve and add more functionality. Other folks look at those new capabilities, see how they can use them in ways the inventors never intended, and it starts to snowball. By the time the big guys wake up to the fact that real customers are laying out real money for real capacity, the early birds have the best implementations, relationships and brands.

Is photo uploading The One? Beats me. But it certainly is pointing in the right direction.