Some industry analysts claim applications hosting could be the next big thing for storage systems. They currently have functionality beyond the storage and retrieval of data — such as encryption and de-duplication capabilities — but to date, these have been developed by storage vendors. In a recent report to the SNIA, senior partner at the Evaluator Group, Randy Kerns, forecasts the next phase of development will see non-storage vendors produce applications to run on storage systems. The trend will start with data mining, searching and indexing functions, he predicts. Kerns points out a lack of standards opens up new areas of concern that will have to be addressed. "But the value promised is intriguing,” he says. “The real measure of success will be when customers see a value that outweighs the issues that are introduced.” While agreeing the trend is approaching, IDC Associate vice-president for storage in Asia-Pacific, Graham Penn, says storage-centric applications will take five years to hit the mainstream. "At this stage, we’re not talking about major applications like SAP. Today it’s just about offloading some specific functionality from the general purpose server." The benefit of hosted applications is they become more "storage aware", which improves the overall performance of an organisation's server. "Each generation of applications is more complex. This will allow companies to use the server more intensively on things it should concentrate on, relieving it of doing functionally specific processing," says Penn. "Through time, such applications will move up the stack and those that currently require manual intervention could become automatic." However, convincing customers will be a task, Kerns warns. "Mention running a third-party application on a storage system and it will usually get a very polarised response. There are many objections that are raised by potential customers of the storage system.” Penn says customers have already raised concerns about the security of data in storage systems, and exposure to applications without the usual hierarchy of systems to traverse. Similarly, data may be modified by applications unintentionally. Potential availability and performance issues across storage systems and applications will all need to be addressed.