Storage is available at a fraction of the cost of just a few years ago, but the enterprise needs so much of it these days that the overall impact on operating budgets is largely a wash.
In fact, it seems that the adage “Build it and they will come” is no longer appropriate for the storage farm. In today’s world, “Build it and they’ll want more” is more accurate.
The proof is in the numbers. Despite falling prices, worldwide factory revenues for storage systems grew 2.8 percent in the third quarter to top $9.1 billion, according to IDC. Total capacity was up a stunning 31.5 percent to 33.1 exabytes, again in the third quarter alone. A key driver is the rise of hyperscale infrastructure, which accounted for 23.4 percent of server revenues, abetted by on-server solutions that gained nearly 10 percent. The largest share of the market (more than half) still went to traditional external storage arrays, but it is telling that this segment’s sales dropped by more than 3 percent compared to 3Q 2014.
It’s for this reason that we can consider the enterprise storage array as pretty much dead, says IT analyst Martin Glassborow. Sure, there is still plenty of money to be made in “normal” storage, but with little to no growth opportunity, it won’t be long before the external array, particularly those based on hard disks, go the way of the mainframe: still around, but more of a ghost of its former self than a vibrant enterprise data solution. Given that reality, it is telling that HPE and other industry storage giants aren’t exactly pushing the envelope when it comes to next-generation solutions.
Much of the action in storage going forward won’t be in the media as much as the architecture, particularly in getting storage to function more effectively across distributed data environments. A company called InterModal Data recently unveiled a new disaggregated storage design that supports billions of files using four times less hardware than traditional solutions. The system removes the storage controller from the shelf to enable Ethernet-connected data and storage nodes. At the same time, intelligent software assigns RAM and Flash cache on a per-workload basis, allowing the enterprise to dynamically customize storage environments based on performance and other requirements. The company says its approach eliminates bottlenecks and boosts resource utilization and efficiency.
Cloud-based storage solutions are also poised to take on greater shares of the enterprise load now that many organizations are starting to overcome their security and availability fears. Still, speed and performance can be a drawback, particularly when dealing with customer-facing and mission-critical functions. ClearSky Data is one of several start-ups looking to address these concerns with solutions that strive for real-time performance across even large-scale cloud architectures. The company’s Smart Tiered Caching (STC) system features a hot cache that sits close to enterprise applications and contains essential data and security. Meanwhile, ClearSky maintains a warm cache at its own facilities that features a Flash-based storage appliance that moves data across multiple cache layers using a metro GbE interconnect. In this way, the company is able to deliver a full storage stack that can handle hundreds of thousands of IOPs with latency of less than two milliseconds.
Going forward, the enterprise will be tasked with not only increasing storage capacity but improving overall performance as well. Fortunately, the standard storage array that has dominated the data center for several decades is giving way to a variety of solutions that provide key advantages to targeted workloads like ecommerce and Big Data analytics.
In this new environment, the challenge will no longer be provisioning enough storage or not blowing the storage budget but in constructing the right architecture for the workload at hand and then layering the appropriate management capabilities on top to configure resources in the proper fashion at a moment’s notice.
It will be a much more diverse, dynamic and complicated storage environment, but a more effective one nonetheless.
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.