Storage: What Does 2016 Hold for the Fastest Growing Segment in Big Data IT Spending?

Molly Rector, CMO, DataDirect Networks

Storage is the fastest growing segment in high performance data centers pending intentions. Data centric organizations globally are looking to allocate their IT budgets to leverage more data than ever in order to make sound business investments and competitive positioning decisions as their end users seek to solve data access, workflow and analytics challenges to accelerate time to results. Large quantities of historical and predictive data in analytical computing, data warehousing and research oriented enterprises have now become the most strategic part of the high performance data center. This may make you wonder, what does 2016 have in store for storage systems in the data center?

“Storage, data management and application acceleration technologies from the HPC industry will continue being tapped at an even higher rate this year to meet the evolving requirements of performance.”

HPC technologies will continue to move into commercial, enterprise environments. Today’s global enterprises are challenged with protecting and maintaining reliable access to a growing amount of information living outside of the data center. Storage, data management and application acceleration technologies from the HPC industry will continue being tapped at an even higher rate this year to meet the evolving requirements of performance and scale and will replace traditional IT infrastructures at an even higher rate. As large-scale commercial enterprises are adopting  HPC technology for use in the enterprise to solve a myriad of challenges including rapidly growing data sets, “Big Data” democratization, analytics initiatives, and data sharing across geographies, they will accelerate adoption of storage solutions that historically have almost exclusively been deployed in supercomputing labs. This is in large part due to the fact that corporate America is taking on the concept of big data and leveraging value in its data sets by using analytics to really dig into the data. Enterprises are using data more strategically–thinking about predictive decisions on where they invest their funds, where they place products in retail stores, etc. Data isn’t just about backing up and storing files anymore. By using data strategically to make money for the business, business units (BUs) within the enterprise are beginning to be viewed as revenue centers instead of cost centers.

Converged and Hyper-converged storage solutions will gain market traction. The new components that drive speed and density are advancing quickly but today’s solutions aren’t keeping pace. Storage and server architectures based on decade-old technologies, retrofitted to include next-generation processors, interconnects and technologies are rife with performance bottlenecks, reliability challenges, complexity and an inherent need for over provisioning. This year, storage will take the lead on converging the newest components into a “hyper-converged” infrastructure platform that takes full advantage of advanced technologies to drive the highest performance and lowest latency in a form factor that is extremely efficient, easy to maintain and that will scale without bound. The concept of these hyper-converged infrastructures, where customers can use a single system to accomplish performance, scale, content distribution, to multiple geographic locations or data centers, all in a single system is the future–not having to buy four or five different technologies for those different needs.

Flash media types will proliferate and more emphasis will be placed on architectures that support and optimize them. Organizations are deploying flash to accelerate application and I/O performance. Storage vendors will have to look beyond applications and accelerate entire  workflows–which means selecting very specific flash media such as NVMe,  PCIe, SSD, etc.

End-to-end, consolidated storage systems will be deployed at even higher rates. As storage buyers look to achieve performance, capacity and cost objectives, they will increasingly do so by consolidating storage silos into much larger, shared data depots or data lakes. These will be automated, tiered systems that will handle data across a wide and increasingly varied set of applications, including the ability to ingest, process and archive data from multiple locations in a single, unified namespace. Environments where this preference will be particularly pronounced include Finance, Life Science, Manufacturing, Video Surveillance and Oil & Gas.

The storage industry landscape will continue to collapse and converge. Convergence is not just about hardware and software merging; IT suppliers will also be consolidating more in 2016 – into super behemoths. This consolidation and convergence of companies will have a negative impact on their existing customers. For this reason, 2016 will see privately owned, cutting-edge storage companies claim a much bigger mindshare as they provide more focus, innovation and value to buyers.

Optimized storage hardware will come back into fashion. Flash is being used to increase performance for many enterprise workloads. A lot of end users are embracing flash-based solutions while ignoring the cost efficiency side of the equation. Maximizing efficiency and performance of flash requires the optimization of hardware as well as software. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance and necessity of purpose-built architectures to encompass greater efficiency and exploit the full capabilities of their expensive flash investments.

Flash will blur the line between caching and storage. Flash will increasingly be placed outside of the storage array and closer to compute to further reduce latency and increase application performance by orders of magnitude. This move will further blur the line between caching and storage, as the flash layer will naturally become more persistent as performance-intensive applications rely upon this ultra-fast tier to deliver results at speeds that outpace the competition.

That is a lot to digest, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The storage industry is one that will continue to not just blindly find its way but to actively evolve each week/month/year to meet the needs of the evolving enterprise.