The Future Of The Storage Business

An acquaintance recently asked me where I thought the storage business was going. I thought this was a great question, and I am going to share my thoughts here as well.

If we look at what has been occurring in the industry, the first thing we see is that crucial executives have been leaving EMC in droves; in fact there is a rumor that the parent company (EMC) may be rolled into their subsidiaryVMware…something is going on there for sure. Hewlett-Packard has been repeatedly kicked around for losing money in four of the last six quarters in their storage business. Dell doesn’t disclose business results, since the company is no longer publicly traded (although they like to see their platforms in standard solutions). At the same time, software-defined storage seems to be the rage from companies like Nexenta and hyper-converged solutions from the likes of Nutanix and even VMware with EVO-rail (both contain their version of software defined storage on standard platforms) are emerging.

On the technology side, flash has been steadily growing in capacity and declining in price. But–and I think most importantly–Intel and Micron Technology announced what they call 3D XPoint NVRAM, which will allow the DRAM array to include nonvolatile memory as normal system memory (of course I know it isn’t quite that simple but nonetheless many feel that is going to change everything). We are also starting to see enormous all flash solutions. It is pretty clear non-volatile solutions where the data is close in time to the CPU will dominate performance, and high capacity hard disks are becoming the final resting place for data.

(NVRAM) Performance <———— data ————-> Resting Place (HDD)

It’s probably an overstatement to say the traditional storage business is dead (nothing is ever that definite in this business). But one thing is for sure: if I were building a new datacenter or even adding capacity to existing one, I wouldn’t be making room for anything but software plus servers with lots of nonvolatile memory or servers with a bunch of disks.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions represented in this work are mine and mine alone. They do not knowingly represent the views of any other individual or individuals living or dead. I make no guarantee as to their accuracy, nor are they necessarily an accurate predictor of the future. They are the product of a partial lucid mind resulting from nearly four decades of fun in the information technology industry and the long term impact of said chaos. You should read them, possibly understand them, and immediately discarded them. Other than that, I hope you find them useful.