2013:The year of transformation in the Storage Space

Of all the foundational infrastructure technologies; none appears to be changing faster than storage. From a macroeconomic perspective, the shift  o digital business models means information: orders of magnitude more of it gathered analyzed and acted on.

And, on a more pragmatic note, when IT budgets are cramped, one of the first categories that always come under intense scrutiny is- you guessed it-  storage.

Here are the top seven shifts occurring in the storage domain:

1. Storage Media

The first key shift is in storage media: tape has been largely replaced by disk, and traditional uses for disks are quickly being replaced by flash  storage. With regards to tape, inline deduplication technology (e.g. EMC  Data Domain) has lowered the cost of using disk for backup and archive to the point where disk-based data protection solutions are often now both  faster and cheaper than their tape predecessors.

For primary storage, the promise of flash instead of disk is simple: vastly more performance at lower cost.

As a result, flash is quickly finding its way into the entire storage hierarchy: in the server (EMC VFcache)
in the storage network (Project Thunder) and in the array (EMC FAST)- all orchestrated by software that
ensures the right data is in the right place at the right time.

The use of multi-core processors and inline deduplication is now making possible all-flash storage arrays
(XtremIO) that can compete effectively with hybrid flash/disk combinations.

 

And, of course, the core SLC and MLC flash technologies (as they are on a semiconductor technology
curve) will continue to get ever cheaper, denser and more cost effective.

2. Technology Base

The second key shift is around the technology base. Previously, storage arrays used proprietary or customized hardware to achieve superior  performance and availability.

This has quickly given way to the use of industry standard components running advanced software, shifting the value proposition away from hardware and towards modern storage software stacks.

Look inside any modern storage array, it’s essentially a specialized server built from familiar components that represent the very best in price/performance — running an amazingly sophisticated software stack.

Hardware still plays a role — of course — but it is less pronounced over time. Take this idea to its logical extreme, and it’s not hard to imagine  rich, virtualized software stacks running on very standardized hardware.

All EMC storage products reflect this philosophy.

3. Architecture

 

The third key shift is architectural: in a world of big data, scale-out storage architectures are demanded.

With scale-out, multiple modules are clustered into progressively larger configurations that behave as a single unit from a performance, capacity  and management perspective.

Can we always make bigger, traditional scale-up storage arrays? Of course. Will they be enough to keep up with even bigger data growth and  performance requirements? Not so well.

This design theme can be seen in EMC products such as VMAX (scale-out block storage), Isilon(scale-out NAS storage) and Atmos (scale-out object  storage).

4. Convergence

The fourth key shift is convergence: storage, network and servers are growing together, largely in response for even greater efficiencies.

One current example of this theme is the popular VCE Vblock, a tightly-integrated enterprise cloud platform built on converged infrastructure from  Cisco, VMware and EMC.

Future technology directions point to even more variations of converged storage / compute / memory modules that auto-configure and seamlessly  redistribute workloads.

 

The implication is clear: over time, we’ll be thinking less about storage as a standalone component, and more as part of a converged environment.

5. Distance

The fifth key shift is the need to overcome distance: storage in data centers increasingly demands geographical separation for protection,  performance or resource balancing concerns. There’s just too much  information pouring in (and being globally consumed) to simply assume it  all can be sent to (and distributed from) a small number of centralized locations.

Enter the new world of federated architectures: infrastructure, data services, etc.

Newer EMC technologies (VPLEX, Atmos), are able to geographically distribute data without being disruptive to applications or management operations: a capability that is becoming increasingly important.

6. Management And Orchestration

The sixth key shift is management and orchestration: storage resources are increasingly presented as a dynamic and variable service to other layers of the IT stack: hypervisor, middleware, application, etc.

This leads to a new management and operations model that demands new tools and methodologies (EMC Unisphere and ProSphere, EMC DataBridge, VMware vCenter Operations Manager, etc.).

 

While there will always be value in managing storage as a self-contained domain; the path forward lies in producing and orchestrating storage services that are consumed by others, which leads us to …

7. Consumption Model

The IT model has started to shift to an “as a service model”. IT owns the relationship, and builds or brokers a variable service catalog to meet requirements.

The technology discussion quickly morphs into a service delivery discussion, and the storage domain is not immune from this shift.

This shift has two components: a re-thinking about how storage teams are organized and measured (service delivery); and an increasing ttractiveness of brokered (e.g. external) storage services.

New models mean new roles and new skills- and the modern storage IT professional looks very different than the ones from just a few years ago.

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