Of all the changes that are headed for the data center in the coming year, it is easy to overlook the storage farm. Flash, after all, is old hat, and the basic role of storage is to be there when you need it, so it doesn’t have the cachet of processing or networking when it comes to building advanced, software-defined data architectures.
But storage still plays a vital role in infrastructure, which is still the major cost center in the enterprise. So any development that can lessen the dependence on massive arrays of spinning disks in favor of solid-state technology only helps to streamline infrastructure, and in fact kick starts the movement toward modular hardware configurations.
This is part of the reason why storage has become such a target for venture capital. According to Fortune’s Katherine Noyes, money is pouring into key start-ups like DataStax and PernixData because the moneyed classes see the writing on the wall: Users are gobbling up data at an alarming rate and pretty soon we will have to deal with the machine-to-machine traffic of the Internet of Things, which means that somewhere, somehow all that data must find a home. And going forward, storage solutions will have to demonstrate not only the capacity to handle these loads, but the speed to access and retrieve data on demand.
It was hard not to see the impact that cloud storage had on the enterprise in 2014, and there is every reason to think deployments will accelerate next year, says Enterprise Storage Forum’s Drew Robb. Pushing data onto the cloud has just become too easy, and cheap, while concerns over security and availability are ebbing. So whether it is secondary or even primary storage, B&R or long-term archiving, expect the cloud to replace much of the appliance infrastructure that has arisen over the past decade, coupled with faster access and improved failover capabilities.
As I mentioned, the changes in storage extend beyond the array and into the very heart of enterprise infrastructure via the development of modular, converged platforms. This, in turn, is having an impact up and down the stack as applications are increasingly tailored toward best-of-breed infrastructure rather than custom-built solutions, speeding up the deployment process and reducing the risk of launching untested solutions for mission-critical apps like Oracle, Exchange and SQL. At the same time, increased interoperability between Flash and disk solutions provide for improved tiering and data automation.
Even when you get down to desktop storage devices, expect to see greater capacity, intelligence and automation, says eWeek’s Chris Preimesberger. This is being driven by three fundamental trends: more content moving to the cloud, more adaptive storage management and steadily falling prices. As more data migrates to the cloud, increased intelligence is needed in storage software to keep track of information. With Flash added to the mix, modern arrays need to oversee a wide range of details on the data they hold – everything from file formats and size to the particulars of the content and the proper storage location and device type to ensure high levels of storage performance. And again, it seems that newcomers like Pure Storage, Fusion-io and Violin Memory are on high-growth trajectories in this new environment while market leaders EMC, HP and NetApp continue to tread water.
Storage could very well become the surprise element in the data center transformation that is unfolding right now. As cloud providers and top enterprises seek to trim their hardware footprints, reducing the size and complexity of the storage farm or getting rid of it altogether comes across as a very appealing option.
It might not be sexy, but faster, leaner storage will likely be a key catalyst that propels the data center into the 21st Century.
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, Carpathia and NetMagic.