Storage Progress in 2011 and 3 Predictions for 2012

This year IT had figured out what storage works best in what infrastructure. Thankfully, 2012 will be the year that innovation soars within the industry.

By John Kreisa, director of marketing, Red Hat Storage Business Unit

One thing was clear: 2011 proved to be a monumental year in terms of growth and innovation within the storage industry, and more specifically in cloud storage. As the amount of data stored and consumed continued on an explosive growth path and organizations began to deploy cloud services, the pressing need for cost-effective, reliable, and accessible storage grew significantly.

We’ve seen a number of key storage trends this year which I believe will only drive greater storage demand and innovation.

2011 Trend #1: IT was uncertain about the best model for cloud storage

Given the vast adoption of cloud computing this year, storage pools have grown and workloads have become increasingly complex. The move to the cloud has highlighted each organization’s hardware and infrastructure needs along with how each differs depending on storage requirements. This has made the flexibility of core hardware a crucial selection criterion for enterprise cloud storage.

Furthermore, the economics of being able to flexibly source commodity hardware from multiple vendors became increasingly attractive. Already there was a clear software trend in other areas including computing, business analytics and the recent emergence and popularity of software and platform as a service (SaaS and PaaS). However, the software model for cloud storage began to gain significant traction within the IT industry. Another angle driving uncertainty is file or object access. Existing applications are overwhelmingly file based, whereas new cloud based applications use object to access data.

2012 Prediction #1: The software model will prove essential for storage; hardware will become increasingly insufficient

Although the history of storage seems to be inundated with memories of stacks and stacks of big monolithic boxes, I believe the future will look anything but. With a projected compound annual growth rate of 28.9 percent for cloud storage from last year on to 2015, it will become increasingly clear that a hardware-bound scale-up model of storage is frankly impractical.

Moving a bulky, proprietary storage appliance to the cloud simply cannot be done, nor is adapting to the proprietary appliance model simple. Appliances will win when the flexibility in hardware doesn't add compelling economics or needed functionality, but this is not the case with storage. In cloud and Big Data environments, the software model for storage will prove essential.

2011 Trend #2: IT consolidated and unified storage

This year began the discussion of consolidation and unified storage with announcements from companies such as EMC, IBM, NetApp, and others about enhancements of their storage products to address these new features. Cloud and virtualization adoption have led to the need for data storage solutions that simplify, consolidate, and meet budget requirements.

The increased need for consolidating data into one pool and therefore storing it in different ways proved to be a major pain point for many this year and led to the realization that object and file components must be managed from a single interface.

As is typical, well-known storage hardware providers approached this need with bulky and costly hardware solution offerings. Others innovated and found a more cost-effective and easily deployable software solution to unified or simultaneous file and object storage needs. This software type solution can ease the movement of storage resources between and file workloads. By unifying storage at the software layer, you are enabling users and applications to have multiple access-points and you leverage the hardware agnostic aspects of a software solution -- deploying significantly more cost effective storage solutions.

2012 Prediction #2: Enterprises will provide anytime, anywhere access to data

The desire to access data regardless of how and where it is stored within the infrastructure will continue to increase, forcing companies to address this need by creatively providing solutions which allow individuals to consolidate different types of storage into one pool. The age of monolithic, proprietary, hardware-bound storage solutions is coming to an end. With storage increasingly consumed as a scalable and highly distributed pool across cloud environments, we will be asked to embrace the concept of file and object storage.

Businesses will begin to see the advantages of having unstructured data stored and available in "the cloud." They will also begin to more heavily consider Big Data and its associated storage component. Additionally, they will continue to implement solutions that deliver the possibility of storing data in a centrally managed but globally accessible pool, accessible anywhere and by multiple users, applications, and over multiple protocols. Users will require the consolidation of a wide range of applications onto a single, more cost-efficient storage resource to eliminate the need for data migration between multiple systems.

2011 Trend #3: Highly available storage becomes a necessity

Many organizations continued to require a high-performance and highly available IT infrastructure to meet customer service-level agreements. By deploying a cloud infrastructure, there subsequently became an increased need for secure and reliable cloud storage. With many individuals working remotely and from different locations, along with businesses requiring 24/7 access to their data, cloud storage became an increasing necessity for business operations.

Organizations began to realize that cloud storage could eliminate the need to install physical storage devices, therefore reducing IT costs. It became increasingly obvious that storage maintenance tasks such as data replication and backup could be handled in the cloud, allowing companies to focus on their business rather than their storage needs. It became increasing necessary to implement high availability solutions for cloud storage.

2012 Prediction #3: Enterprise replication standards will be adopted in the cloud

Businesses will accelerate the adoption of data replication standards developed in the enterprise data center to the cloud. Local synchronous replication within a private cloud and between availability zones in a public cloud will become more common place as recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) are more heavily considered and implemented.

Additionally, asynchronous data replication over long distances will move forward from the "want to have" category in the private and public cloud to the "can implement now" category as cloud storage providers deliver replication over vast geographical distances with innovative new replication solutions. The biggest impact here will be felt in the public cloud, where data replication innovation has been slow to progress, and 2012 will see tremendous progress being made in this area.

A Final Word

Where 2011 was a year of figuring out what storage works best in what infrastructure, 2012 will be the year that innovation soars within the industry.

John Kreisa is the director of marketing for Red Hat’s Storage Business Unit. You can contact the author at jkreisa@redhat.com.
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