Six Top Trends in Storage

By Drew Robb

There is a lot going on in storage right now. But what are the top trends? Several analysts weighed in.

1. Virtualization Phase Two

Naming virtualization as a top trend in storage is a bit of a no-brainer. Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group, said that the first big wave of virtualization was about consolidation and supporting a newly virtualized server landscape.

“Now it’s about life beyond consolidation, expanding the focus to include agility, flexibility, high availability and disaster recovery,” he said.

This has been brought about by the fact that storage virtualization is better able to keep pace with the server side. As a result, architects are taking a more holistic view and designing storage to fully take advantage of virtual machines (VMs) rather than being merely an afterthought.

2. Data Protection Sophistication

The second trend outlined by Schulz is more sophistication in data protection.

“Data protection modernization is more than swapping out media like flat tires on cars or trying to dedupe anything that moves or stands still, ” he said. “It’s about revisiting what you are protecting against, why you are protecting, when, where, with what, how often and for how long. Once you really understand that, you can then apply the tools and technologies appropriately.”

Such tools include the many flavors of duplication (such as source-based and target-based), compression, replication, backup and more. After all, a data footprint reduction focus has to recognize that not all data can be deduplicated, for example. However most data footprints can be reduced using some combination of the ABCDs – Archive, Backup modernization, Compression (real-time, application, storage system), Data management and Dedupe –along with storage tiering and other techniques.

3. Big Data Gets Bigger

Big data is an all-inclusive term for all unstructured data including home directories, media files, social media, and analytics repositories. The growth of this data category has been accelerating of late, helped along by the unbelievable hype surrounding the term. The storage industry has really leapt on this moniker as a way to boost sales. And it is working. More and more businesses are now seeking to capture their unstructured data sources and mine that data to maximize competitive advantage. And that takes a whole lot of storage.

“Organizations are finding that the use of this data for analytics has become so prevalent within corporate strategy that its availability and performance is as important as database applications and email,” said Moosa Matariyeh, CDW enterprise storage specialist.

Another change big data has introduced is who the organization’s consumers are. Matariyeh said that employees have always been consumers of storage capacity, but now, people like the CMO and CFO are driving storage projects that they own because they want to run their own data warehouses or pull and analyze social media trends.

4. Little Data Storage

We’ve been hearing a lot about big data. But how about little data, which Schulz defines as databases, file systems and pretty much anything that’s not big data. What has happened is that attention has shifted onto big data and how to deal with it, to some degree to the neglect of all the rest. Therefore, it makes sense to take many of the precautions and strategies being employed for big data and harness them for its little brother.

“Properly taking care of little data includes using solid state disk (SSD) and other forms of storage performance optimization to become more effective, productive, remove complexity and cost, and help the top and bottom lines,” said Schulz.

5. Vendor Lock-in Concerns

While it's pretty obvious that things are moving to the cloud at a steady pace, it's also interesting to note that IT buyers who are getting involved in this sort of storage (and the services that surround it) are concerned about vendor lock-in. That was a big concern around the turn of the millennium when companies were worried about getting too locked in to big hardware platforms provided by the likes of EMC and IBM. This time around, however, the vendor is a service provider.

“A major question they always have is what happens if my engagement with this provider is not a success, and I want to shift someone else?” said Mike Karp, an analyst with PtakNoel and Associates. “As a result of this, service providers are going to start trying to provide a common user interface to cloud services, which would enable data centers to move between clouds with relative ease and would maintain the value of any existing investment in automation and the like.”

6. Object Storage

Another area that appears to be rising in the storage universe is object-based storage. In particular, organizations with extremely high amounts of very small files are starting to look into it. Marketing organizations, research facilities, and others that generate tens of millions of files that occupy a relatively low amount of space are finding that object-based storage can be a more efficient way to store that data and make it searchable. This platform also enables better collaboration by making the data available at multiple sites and keeping it coordinated through more efficient replication and with security levels that enable truly secure multi-tenancy.

“One issue that hindered object-based storage in the past was its initial lower level of performance,” said Matariyeh. “Although the limited performance issue still exists, when used correctly object-based storage enables better scalability, greater efficiency, and more fluidity regarding how, where, and by whom the data is used.”

This article was originally published on November 19, 2012