6 Storage Networking Trends to Watch in 2012

Posted on December 14, 2011 By Drew Robb

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2011 seemed to be all about Big Data, cloud computing, solid state drives (SSDs), unified storage and integrated storage appliances. So what will 2012 bring? InfoStor talked to several veterans in the storage networking field about what they expect to see.

1. Cloud, Cloud, Cloud

Unlike other data storage fads that come and go within a few months, cloud mania will continue unabated in the year ahead. It has gone way beyond storage and is now very much part of the popular culture, even if few in the general public actually understand it.

My wife's hairdresser Arnaud, for example, is convinced that his iPhone has a wireless connection to an actual physical cloud that hovers above him as he moves around the city. But regardless of a multitude of misconceptions, expect to hear a whole lot more about cloud computing.

"Storage continues to move into the cloud at a steady rate, as more IT managers begin to understand the value of letting somebody else worry about hardware purchases," said Mike Karp, an analyst with Ptak-Noel & Associates. "This is going to have a profound impact on a number of things, not the least of which is the bookkeeping that goes on in data centers because the shift to cloud-based services means a shift from CAPEX-based accounting to OPEX-based accounting."

2. Securing the Cloud

IDC predicts storage could grow as much as 50-fold by 2020. While that volume of expansion will propel more companies into the cloud, it necessitates better security, whether it is a public or private cloud.

"Businesses will move beyond the public versus private debate to focus on building secure, trusted cloud networks," said Matt Schiltz, CEO of Symform.

He cites a survey that shows confusion on security: two-thirds of cloud providers feel it's their customer's responsibility to worry about the security of data. Conversely, only one-third of these customers believe they need to worry about the security of data.

"In 2012, cloud users will begin viewing on-premise and cloud infrastructure holistically by embracing the principles of trusted access and trusted cloud networks," said Schiltz.

3. Tiered Storage

Renny Shen, product marketing manager for F5 Networks, thinks 2012 will be the year in which the adoption of tiered storage technologies goes mainstream. IT has a wide array of options available through which to implement it--whether to tier at the file- or block- level, or within a storage device or across multiple devices.

"Regardless, the number of options will continue to grow in 2012, as more vendors and customers alike embrace tiering as a practical technology to reduce costs, more efficiently manage data and take advantage of new technologies such as the cloud," said Shen.

Tying this trend in with the opening cloud computing section, Eric Thacker, senior director of marketing at Panzura, said he believes the cloud could well become its own tier.

"Cloud storage is at the point of achieving escape velocity as a standard storage tier due to the data growth and the physical limits of capacity and budget that any organization can support on its own," he said.

4. More Tape--Not Death to Tape

Tape is an interesting one. Not so long ago it was supposed to be dying. Now, some analysts say it is thriving. Quantum, of course, is very much in tape's corner. And with good reason. According to the latest numbers, tape is showing a revival in sales over the past couple of years. If that continues, tape will remain part of the landscape for many years to come.

"Tape will continue to have a role in long-term data protection and archiving," said Rob Clark, senior vice president, Disk and Tape Data Protection Group, Quantum. "It is the most cost-effective means to maintain large amounts of data for long periods. Additionally, with advancements in LTO technology, the LTFS standard is the next step in workflow portability and long-term data retention--and broadens the use of tape."

5. SSD Bifurcation

It's about two years now since EMC officially blessed SSDs with inclusion in its Symmetrix arrays. Since that time, the number of vendors operating in this space has grown exponentially. In fact, it continues to represent one of the hottest areas of innovation in data storage.

Beyond rapid adoption of SSD, Aaron Passey, CTO of Clustrix, now sees this technology as engendering a bifurcation of the market.

"At the high-end, everyone is going to SSDs, while people are just using SATA for the low end, as its getting ever denser and cheaper," he said. "I don't think there will be any market left for high-end SAS and FC spinning disks very soon. With the technology out there today and the trends going forward, nobody should deploy a new database on spinning disks."

6. Computational Closeness

Once upon a time, computation and storage were far apart. Passey noted that they are getting pushed closer together these days. EMC/Isilon, for example, continues to pull functionality onto the storage devices, running a general-purpose hypervisor on the nodes so apps can get maximum performance access to the data. Similarly, DataDirect is innovating in the area of having dedicated CPUs on the storage as a way for user apps to make big gains in IO intensive operations. Clustrix does the same thing, pushing the execution of the query to where the data lives.

"It's like the re-birth of direct-attached disk, but with infinitely higher flexibility and usefulness," said Passey.

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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