Another year drops off the calendar, one that was a transformative landmark for businesses big and small. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated change in digital infrastructure, as massive companies like State Farm shifted their tens of thousands of employees into work-from-home and hybrid models. This new dynamic, coupled with the unceasing growth of data, has put stresses on how data is served and stored. As we move into 2022, we examine what new data storage trends are coming into focus.
Market research firm Mordor Intelligence projects that the enterprise flash storage industry will continue to grow in 2022 and the years beyond. The flash market is seeing its fastest growth in India and China, as the countries modernize their internet infrastructure and cloud storage capabilities. However, the largest share is still in the United States. Pushing this growth in the U.S. is the increase in enterprise mission-critical, cloud-based softwares with frequent read/write operations.
Beyond performance advantages, flash reduces power consumption costs in data centers, though the cost/gigabyte is still comparably high against HDDs. The price of SSDs continues to decline, as the technology becomes more reliable and drive capacities expand. By contrast, the HDD market share has shrunk from its $34 billion peak in 2014 and is expected to plummet to $12 billion by next year.
Investments in cloud-computing infrastructure rose 32% in the last year, reaching $59 billion according to a report from industry analyst firm Gartner. By the end of 2022, that number is anticipated to exceed the $100 billion mark. But where the industry was once dominated by AWS, now enterprises are diversifying their cloud storage contracts across several vendors, creating a multi-cloud storage solution that takes advantage of cherry-picked offerings from different contracts.
The Wallstreet Journal reported earlier this year that companies like Experian are seeking multi-cloud solutions from AWS, Microsoft, Google, and Oracle simultaneously. The same path has been followed by federal agencies, such as the CIA and the Pentagon, bringing an end to a planned $10 billion, 10-year exclusive contract with Microsoft for cloud storage. However, cloud providers are not stagnating in their offerings. Instead, some, such as Microsoft and Oracle, are pairing up, enabling their customers to seamlessly implement a multi-cloud solution that takes advantage of Azure and Oracle Cloud at the same time.
The Google-developed, now open-source project Kubernetes has resulted in software that manages containerized applications while orchestrating them across multiple environments. A Gartner study projects that 75% of companies will be running containerized applications by 2022, putting stresses on the storage industry to implement flexible and persistent storage solutions to accommodate Kubernetes—even across multi-clouds.
While containerized applications are highly portable, there are challenges with maintaining consistency when, for instance, an application needs to reference a database. As the application moves, each new instance needs to be directed to its data. Companies like NetApp are developing solutions to manage containerized applications to create persistent data connectivity across multiple storage locations, removing the seams between public cloud and on-premises workloads.
Also read: Top Container Software & Orchestration Tools
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The big players in the storage world have seen great success with implementing AI in their operations. Back in 2016, Google put its DeepMind AI to use, yielding a 40% reduction in energy expended on data center cooling. German manufacturer Siemens caught up with its own AI thermal management program last year, bringing down cooling costs that typically make up 30% of its data center’s energy consumption.
Google later extended its AI to create weather forecasting models, projecting the thermal impacts of outside temperatures as well as fluctuations in wind and solar power asset outputs. Machine learning-based AI can process millions of data points each second, accrued from sensors placed across the data center, and can make adjustments more rapidly than a human operator can.
However, these are proprietary solutions, leaving smaller data centers on their own for building AI in-house. There’s plenty of room for growth in this field, but rising energy futures will put pressure on data centers to bring down electricity costs.
Network as a Service
Finally, pandemic conditions have accelerated change in how enterprises connect with their data storage. In its 2022 Global Networking Report, Cisco projects a near-term growth in the adoption of the Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) market, though not without some hesitation from IT professionals. Under a NaaS model, businesses of all sizes lease networking hardware such as switches and routers, providing rapid scalability and on-demand pricing.
As network boundaries become more ambiguous and the paths between enterprise data and its consumers shift, the service-based approach gives companies the flexibility to adapt to changing landscapes without burdensome capital expenditures. This further alleviates the costs of maintaining and upgrading networking equipment, but the Cisco survey of over 1,500 IT pros finds that many are still wary of losing control over hardware.
“Understandably, organizations have a multitude of technologies and investments, many of which fall on different depreciation schedules,” the report says. “Other organizations have legacy technologies and applications that may not be a good fit for NaaS.
“And some simply don’t want to offload the day-to-day management of their infrastructure.”
The Way Forward
These are just a handful of the trends moving in the data storage realm. Other developments worth watching include novel approaches to data center sustainability, further moves toward edge computing, improvements in hardware-level security, and the growth of computational storage.