When it comes to storage, this new year certainly won’t be boring. A number of technologies and market movements have been percolating over the past few years and will reach full steam in 2018—impacting the landscape for enterprise suppliers and enterprise buyers alike. There is a lot to cover, so let’s dive in.
The year of persistent storage class memory (SCM)
Storage class memory (SCM)—sometimes also known as “persistent memory,” or PM—provides byte-addressable persistent memory that lives on a system’s memory bus. While applications can treat SCM the same as they do existing system memory, they do so with the added benefit of persistence. It effectively blends SSD drive storage capabilities with memory bus DRAM semantics.
In order to fully leverage SCM, the industry must agree on a set of interfaces, and re-architect applications to leverage them. The Storage Networking Industry Association, or SNIA, is the standards body for the storage industry. SNIA has been driving standards around persistent memory for several years, and the standards are beginning to mature.
Microsoft began supporting SCM in Windows Server in late 2017 and is shipping test builds of the next version of Windows Server today with more sophisticated support. Additionally, Microsoft now supports the technology in SQL Server 2016 SP1, in order to provide performance enhancements. Oracle Corporation is also supporting flavors of storage class memory.
Optane is still in its early days, but early indications show it living up to its promise. The results published by emergent players like E8 Storage and Apeiron Data for Optane are fairly amazing. Apeiron is claiming speeds 8 times faster than traditional parts, with 38 times less latency. Optane is selling at a premium right now, but will level out as manufacturing ramps up and Micron Technology brings its solution to market later in 2018.
2018 will be the year these parts starts be designed and shipped in systems where fast persistent memory is a requirement. Optane and 3D XPoint will turn up in both traditional SSD and storage class memory. Mainstream adoption, however, will lag into 2019 as costs normalize.
HCI grows, but cautiously
Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) really requires more attention than can be properly be given in this article, but after several years of availability and evolution from a variety of vendors, we can make some predictions about 2018.
HCI will continue to grow at a rapid pace, but largely in the small and medium business space. Broad adoption of HCI in the enterprise data center will remain elusive. The obstacles are less technical in nature and are more a function of IT organizational politics and process. HCI confuses the typical fiefdoms of networking, storage, and compute, and blurs the lines of manageability, procurement and responsibility for a solution’s success. However, enterprises will adopt HCI where it makes the most sense, in areas such as branch offices and isolated application deployments.
NetApp pioneered predictive analytics with its AutoSupport feature a decade ago, which has since evolved into NetApp Active IQ. Using many of the same engineers who developed NetApp’s solution, Nimble Storage delivered the excellent Infosight Product, which HPE executives called a “crown jewel” of the Nimble acquisition. HPE has announced the integration of Infosight and HPE’s 3PAR storage products, and have not been shy trumpeting its ambitions to leverage Infosight across the datacenter. Pure Storage offers predictive analytics that are close to on-par with HPE’s Infosight, as part of its Pure 1 Global Insight Offering. IBM Storage also offers its own predictive analytics.
It’s surprising that the vendor most lacking in predictive analytics is Dell Technologies. The EMC team does offer some automated support, but doesn’t seem to have the depth in this area that some of its competitors have. I expect Dellwill find a way to quickly close this gap in 2018.
NVMe commoditizes and NVME-F starts to take hold
NVMe is a high-speed controller-less interface that connects flash memory to a storage bus, providing nearly six times the performance of traditional flash interconnect technologies. Adoption of NVMe began in earnest in 2017, but 2018 will be the year that nearly every new flash offering will arrive with an NVMe interface. Components are being delivered today from Intel Corporation, Samsung, and Micron Technologies.
NVMe is all about connecting flash to local hardware. Its companion specification, NVMe-Fabric (or NVME-f), extends the protocol outside a local storage domain. Implementations of NVMe-F are being delivered in 2018 over high-speed Ethernet, fiber channel, Infiniband and hostless adopted fabrics.
It’s going to be an interesting, but not a revolutionary year. Storage trends are converging into new solutions and use cases. OEMs are talking more about solutions than they are products. Flash gets faster and denser, and moves onto the memory bus. Convergence happens where it makes sense. OEMs continue to exist in their current pecking order, for now. The storage world continues to evolve.