More Capacity and Greater Diversity: The Changing Face of Storage

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    The Struggle to Manage the Complexity of Modern IT

    It’s a new data environment these days, one characterized by highly flexible, highly scalable cloud architectures, Big Data analytics, mobile traffic and the Internet of Things. Small wonder, then, that the enterprise industry is turning toward new kinds of storage to help carry the load.

    According to Sepaton, nearly half of medium to large organizations (those with at least 50TB of primary data under storage) are looking at annual data growth of 15 percent a year or more, with 9 percent reporting year-on-year increases on the order of 25 percent. And this snowball seems to be rolling downhill rather quickly now that multiple client devices and applications like instant messaging have entered the mainstream. Right now, much of this traffic is text-based—imagine the load if, or when, video messaging comes into vogue.

    It is clear, then, that the volume of data is only part of the problem confronting the enterprise. Equally crucial is the diversity of data, which includes everything from traditional enterprise applications and database crunching to Web-facing transactional functions and high-speed digital communications. This is part of the reason organizations are turning toward entirely new forms of storage like in-memory solutions that are designed to support the rapid-fire analytics requirements of Big Data. And lately, even these systems are working their way into broader storage infrastructure as companies like Atlantis Computing add pooling capabilities that incorporate legacy SAN, NAS, RAM and even DAS systems in support of all-Flash or hybrid configurations.

    These trends are also partially responsible for the rise in cloud storage—not that IT is throwing up its hands and outsourcing infrastructure to third-party providers, but that business units are finding the cloud a more convenient means to spin up the kind of storage and services they require. According to Global Industry Analysts, the cloud-based storage market is set to hit $13 billion by 2018 as enterprises of all stripes look to accommodate double-digit data growth with largely static storage budgets. At the same time, cloud solutions allow even smaller firms to adopt a global IT footprint, making it easier to expand their markets and deliver services to new partners and customers.

    Conventional wisdom holds that all of this is bad news for legacy storage providers like EMC and Seagate. However, it seems obvious that top executives are not blind to market forces and are angling to leverage new storage architectures even as they strive to maintain legacy systems. Seagate, for instance, saw a 4 percent decline in enterprise storage in the latest quarter, although that still represents more than $3.5 billion in revenues. But the company is already looking past standard solid state storage technologies through developments like Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) and the Kinetic Open Storage Platform designed to flatten storage architectures to accommodate flexible, high-speed data requirements. At the same time, the company has acquired Xyratex as a means to bolster its capabilities in intelligent, modular storage systems.

    Of course, no one can guarantee that any of this will be successful, either for the established players or the nimble start-ups. Storage technology is advancing so fast these days that what looks to be a sure thing today could very well end up in the junk pile tomorrow – if not the core systems like Flash and in-memory, then at least the way they are currently being configured and implemented.

    The only constant seems to be the insatiable demand for storage, and that, unfortunately, is tied to an equally insatiable resistance to spending more for it.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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