The Struggle to Replace Old Storage with New Storage

Arthur Cole

The enterprise continues to encounter good news and bad news when it comes to storage. On the good side, it is spending less for more capacity, largely as a result of commodity solutions making their way into hyperscale cloud facilities. On the bad side, organizations are dealing with a wide variety of storage options, and ongoing changes to underlying data models make it difficult to determine the best storage approach to a given application.

According to International Data Corp., worldwide enterprise storage systems factory revenue was down 6.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016, topping $11.1 billion. This was despite the fact that total capacity shipments were up a healthy 18.3 percent to 52.4 exabytes. While shipments from original design manufacturers (ODMs) grew 3.2 percent to $1.2 billion, both server-side storage and external storage arrays in the enterprise were down 7.8 percent, accounting for a nearly $10 billion decline.

Flash storage has certainly been a major disruptor in the storage farm over the past decade, but the diversity of solutions hitting the channel is leading to major headaches for data center managers, says Enterprise Storage Forum’s Drew Robb. Not only do new solutions incorporate various cell configurations and form factors, but the interconnects between pockets of storage are growing more complex as well. This forces the enterprise to deploy multiple Flash topographies in order to have the right solution for any need that should arise, even if this adds cost and complexity to the overall storage environment.

It also turns out that shedding the old disk-based storage array is not as easy as it appears, says Wikibon’s Peter Burris. In a recent research paper highlighted on Silicon Angle, Burris noted that while the hyperscale industry has shown the way forward with its scalable compute and storage architectures, traditional enterprises are still struggling with entrenched IT functions, legacy vendor solutions and technology-led process automation. What’s needed, he says, is for the enterprise to shift to a service administration model using private cloud resources and real automation, which should finally allow them to drop vendors that simply push the same old platforms dressed up using fad technology marketing terms.


Much of the disruption in storage infrastructure can be tied to digital transformation, according to Actifio CEO Ash Ashutosh. In a column on Network World, he notes that as the economics of data change to where data no longer supports the business but is the business, its value along different points of the development cycle change as well. In the old days, data was most valuable at its creation and when in high demand by production applications. This called for highly robust centralized storage systems but gradually diminished architecture as data experienced its eventual decay in value. In the digital economy, data has very little value at its creation but gains importance as it is analyzed, shared and combined with other data. This calls for a very high-speed storage environment across the entire data lifecycle, which many enterprises are struggling to create. In time, however, most will come to realize that the answer to today’s storage woes is not to create new or better storage, but a new and better data model.

It seems clear that storage will be a thorn in the enterprise side for a while longer. Even if organizations give up on building their own storage infrastructure, there are still issues with migration, integration, and management of third-party resources.

There will always be enough storage somewhere. The challenge is to leverage what is available more effectively and at less cost than your rivals.

Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.


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