When we look back at 2008, the ovewhelming story was growth. That's growth as in an accelerating explosion of information, much of it in the form of video, led IT administrators to try to make better use of their capacity and staff.

Overall demand for storage capacity is growing by about 60 percent per year, according to IDC. Another research company, Enterprise Strategy Group, pegs the annual growth rate of data between 30 percent and 60 percent.

"Organisations are having a hard time getting their arms around all that data," said ESG analyst Lauren Whitehouse. Economic woes are making it even harder, with frozen or scaled-back budgets, while the downturn isn't expected to significantly slow data growth next year.

Stuck in that bind, organisations don't want to have to roll out a gigabyte of capacity in their own data centers for every new gigabyte that's created, analysts said.

"What we'll see more of in companies is a focus on efficiency," IDC analyst Rick Villars said. They're seeking to increase the utilisation of their storage capacity as well as other IT resources.

Storage virtualisationw

A big part of that effort is virtualisation of storage, which often goes hand in hand with server virtualisation and became a mainstream technology in 2008, according to analyst John Webster of Illuminata. Storage vendors are offering more virtualisation products and seeing more demand for them, he said. A virtualisation capability such as thin provisioning, which lets administrators assign storage capacity to a new application without having to figure out how much it ultimately will need, helps make better use of resources, Webster said.