New Kids On The Block Reshaping Enterprise Storage

Enterprise storage, which had been chugging along at 15k for the last decade, is under siege as data continues to grow, demand to make use of that data increases in importance, and high-performance hard disk disks operating at 15,000 revolutions per minute give way to the new kids on the block like (solid state), cloud and software-defined storage. Storage had been pretty stable but that’s all started to change in the last couple of years, said Bob Fine, Director of Product Marketing, Storage, in a recent interview.

Dell expects more significant movement in the data center with respect to storage – including a wide adoption of flash storage due to changing economics, storage and server lines blurring with converged infrastructures and more automated storage technologies to further simplify management and associated costs. “Customers aren’t interested in acronyms; they’re interested in how IT solves their problems.”

The problems are varied, and so are the solutions. Just over a week ago released its fifth annual data protection survey of companies with at least 1,000 employees and at least 50 TB of primary data to protect, reconfirming the explosive data growth. Nearly half (43%) reported data growth of more than 15% annually, including 9% who characterized their data growth as “explosive” with growth of 25% or more annually.

Those numbers actually understate the situation, according to a recent interview with Chris Ratcliffe, VP of Marketing, Advanced Software Division. customers are seeing data growing at 80-90% per year, and 70% routinely.

“Data growth is absolutely out of control for everybody. This is a great thing for EMC because people want to buy storage, but it creates a ton of problems.”

One of the interesting factoids to come out of the proposed acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook – besides the $19 billion price tag – came courtesy of Eden Zoller, Principal Analyst, Consumer Telecoms, Ovum. “The social messaging market is growing rapidly, with messaging volumes to reach 69 trillion with subscribers growing to 1.8 billion by the end of 2014 according to Ovum forecasts.”

Messaging may not be the biggest driver of storage, but we are talking trillions here. As Lenin once noted, quantity has a quality all its own.

Just throwing more storage at this runaway data growth is not a solution, even if IT budgets were keeping pace with this growth, which they aren’t. One of the problems is the unprecedented proportions of storage sprawl, said George Crump, Storage Switzerland, in a recent blog.

“We have to change the storage system so it can adapt in real-time to the workloads it is servicing. This is something that can be done if the storage system leverages software defined networking in addition to software defined storage.”

In a recent blog Mark Peters, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group, pondered the demise of the hard disk drive while foretelling that flash will become more important over the next few years, that ‘software-defined storage’ will become the norm and that a hybrid-cloud model is going to be used by just about everybody. “HDDs have really been our only practical, least-worst option for most data for a long time…certainly for the time that we have had modern IT.”

He said the rapid rise of flash (the enterprise flash/SSD market is expected to reach $1.2 billion in sales by 2015), and the eventual demise of spinning disk drives just makes sense. “Now, I am certainly not being an apologist for the sudden overnight extinction of diskosaurus, but the rapid current move to deploy varying types of (across many devices, and in many iterations, sometimes just judiciously added and sometimes replacing chunks of spinning data) is certainly a glimpse of the future. It is too logical to ignore, as the price becomes more right for more of the data….”

Earlier this month announced its Forever Flash business model designed to reduce storage ownership costs and eliminate storage downtime and the need for forklift upgrades. “Our research consistently tells us that maintaining traditional storage infrastructure is a major pain point for IT managers, resulting in additional cost and sometimes risk for the business,” said Simon Robinson, Vice President, Storage at 451 Research, in a prepared statement in the announcement.

Solid state technology, whether all-flash, hybrid, server or memory-based, is a significant driver behind the changing storage landscape, said Fine. “Flash is changing the economics of storage. The same is true as to how flash and are changing the economics of the datacenter.”

In addition to flash, cloud has been taking a bigger piece of the enterprise storage pie, with Amazon and Microsoft (Azure) driving prices down and drawing in competitors like IBM, which just announced it would spend $1.2 billion to boost its cloud storage services to tap into a $100 billion market.

Convergence – AKA converged infrastructure, combining storage with servers and networking – is also gathering momentum. “Customers don’t want to have different vendors for their servers, storage and networking… they’re looking for vendors and solutions to bring all of that together in a unified way”, said Fine. “But you can’t really do convergence without software interoperability”, he added.

Software-defined storage (SDS) – or perhaps software-defined data storage to differentiate itself from software-defined security – is expected to reach $5.41 billion by 2018, according to a recent report from MarketsandMarkets. ‘The rise in the big data has escalated the demand for storage requirement and scalability in the data centers thereby increasing the operational as well as capital costs of these data centers and other service providers. To suffice these requirements many major companies are trying to provide solutions which would reduce overall cost, thus increasing the scalability and flexibility to efficiently use the existing and legacy infrastructure at an optimum level.’

Chuck Hollis, Chief Strategist, SAS BU, believes SDS will be an increasingly important discussion in 2014 and beyond. There’s a lot of work to be done, and it won’t all happen this year, but “this is the year it all begins.”

What isn’t and will not change is the need for organizations to respond to rapidly evolving market conditions, said Fine. Information has become an organization’s most valuable asset, and often among its most costly. We expect more significant movement in the data center with respect to storage – including a wide adoption of flash storage due to changing economics, storage and server lines blurring with converged infrastructures and more automated storage technologies to further simplify management and associated costs.

Author: Steve Wexler

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