Enterprise storage has historically been a market that is slow to change, but a number of factors are making this an interesting space to watch right now. Vendors like Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), NetApp, IBM, Pure Storage and others are servicing the storage market with on-premise traditional storage systems and server-based storage products. In addition, these traditional storage vendors are being challenged by public cloud storage-as-a-service offerings from the likes of Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and others.
I expect to see a unique set of dynamics play out in enterprise storage over the coming years. Here are the top five things I believe will have a major influence on the enterprise storage market in 2017…
- New data models will drive the need for new storage technologies. The confluence of mobile applications, cloud computing and the internet of things (IoT) is causing massive increases in the volume of data that needs to be moved, processed and stored by IT. Not only is the volume of data exploding, but the data itself, sources for data and usage models are undergoing significant transformation. Storage systems designed for traditional applications may not be the best fit for new data-intensive workloads such as intelligent edge computing and big data analytics. These new workloads are driving the need for new technologies, products and business models.
- Public cloud storage will continue to grow (but doesn’t meet all needs). The public cloud has removed the headache of buying and managing hardware with a model that allows IT to easily spin up storage resources in the cloud almost instantaneously. However, data sovereignty requirements, security concerns, and public cloud bandwidth costs for data-intensive workloads mean that some workloads will continue to live in on-premises datacenters for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, many IT organizations are using hybrid cloud strategies which enable them to access data across on-premise and public cloud infrastructures. Lines will continue to blur between private and public cloud storage with the release of Microsoft Azure Stack in 2017, and the availability of new Amazon AWS products such as Snowball Edge and Snowmobile. In addition, I expect to see additional tactics from traditional enterprise storage vendors to combat the threat of public cloud such as increased availability of pay-as-you-go storage consumption models. Enterprise IT organizations will also look to more broadly deploy cloud-to-cloud backup capabilities to reduce risk and protect data.
- Server-based storage will be used for bigger projects. With the rise in software-defined storage, IT organizations are combining commodity server hardware with software-defined storage stacks for their private cloud infrastructure to lower costs and streamline operations. While traditional external storage arrays still make up the majority of the market, server-based storage made up 24% of enterprise storage shipments in Q3 2016, according to IDC, and has been steadily growing at the expense of traditional arrays over the last couple of years. Instead of being relegated to smaller projects, I expect to see software-defined storage becoming an integral part of big data initiatives, workloads that require object-based storage and other data-intensive mission critical projects this year. I also expect to see more software-defined storage products hit the market designed for a wider range of use cases.
- Flash will continue to pick up steam. As the cost of flash media declines, the capacity of flash increases and more advanced data reduction technologies become available, hybrid and all-flash arrays are beginning to take hold beyond high-performance computing and big data analytics workloads. According to IDC, revenue from all-flash arrays reached $1.1 billion in Q3 2016—over 12% of the total enterprise market—at a growth rate of over 60% versus the same quarter the previous year. In 2017 and beyond, I expect that flash will become the “new normal” for some applications. The speed of flash is also likely to drive adoption of faster Fibre Channel and Ethernet storage networking protocols. Over the next 5 years, some estimates indicate that half of all datacenters will deploy all-flash arrays.
- Other new storage technologies will begin to have a meaningful impact. There are a number of new technologies in various stages of development that will be interesting to watch in 2017.
- First, NVMe will become available in more server models and hybrid / all-flash arrays as the technology becomes more affordable and the ecosystem expands.
- Second, I expect to see the use of containers for enterprise storage become more prevalent.
- Third, I expect more IT organizations evaluate and adopt products with predictive storage analytics capabilities (ex. Nimble Storage).
- Fourth and further out on the horizon, storage class memory will become better defined, with productization likely in 2018+.
There are many moving parts in the enterprise storage market right now, as traditional vendors and new entrants battle for IT budget dollars. I look forward to digging deeper into these areas to see how they evolve throughout 2017.