The Year Ahead: Disposable Storage Infrastructure

The cloud continues to be a hot topic for IT. Here are three storage trends to watch in 2013.

By Andres Rodriguez

To know what will be asked of IT and what new capabilities vendors will be providing in 2013, one need look no further than the capabilities consumers have already enjoyed for the past two years. In the same way that enterprise client-server followed the consumer personal computer revolution, enterprise storage will need to support a wide range of mobile devices from Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Just as cloud storage has made these devices more powerful, so it will for the enterprise storage.

Trend #1: IT will increase support of consumer mobile devices

Employees, including upper-level managers, love these devices so much that they won't wait for the enterprise to issue one; they'll bring their own and expect IT to support it (BYOD). These new mobile devices change the relationship between data and devices. The data is virtualized and made available via Web services from giant providers such as Amazon AWS. This is the consumer cloud. Expect a rapid demand for similar corporate data services to support a new breed of mobile applications.

The mobile revolution is being powered by a new generation of devices and the extraordinary way they interact with data. A modern mobile device can be lost or damaged with minimum to no risk of data loss. It can access data sets well beyond its capacity. It can synchronize changes with other devices. Users never actually migrate anything from old mobile devices. They simply resynchronize new devices with their data services. The data always feels local and immediate, but it never is truly in the device.

Mobile devices have managed to incorporate cloud as a component. The next race in mobile is about those data services that feed devices. Some services will be consumer applications such as music and movies, others will be enterprise services provided by IT such as access to corporate shares and databases.

Trend #2: Cloud will enable "disposable" storage infrastructure

The changes within the enterprise will not stop at merely supporting consumer mobile devices. Corporate users have come to expect a great deal more than access to e-mail and calendars from their mobile devices. Consumer applications such as Dropbox have set a high bar for access to data. End users expect to be able to reach their files immediately from any computer regardless of whether it sits on their desk or inside their pocket. They expect online and offline access to their files and that any change they make is synchronized across all of their devices. As a consumer, the end user is at the center of the device and data universe.

Enterprise storage systems will follow this path. The gold copy of data will live in the cloud, which (in the best clouds) is far more resilient than any enterprise storage infrastructure and is available anywhere. In this way, storage controllers become "disposable," meaning that, if one goes bust, all one need do is swap in a new one. No data is lost, and users have access to their data almost immediately.

Trend #3: Enterprises will adapt hybrid clouds into their cloud strategy

Enterprise IT is recognizing that it doesn't need to move its systems wholesale into the cloud. There are simply too many advantages to keeping security behind the firewall and data near the users, while simultaneously keeping the gold copy of the data in the cloud. As a result, an ecosystem is developing that will enable IT to absorb the cloud as a component into their data centers in a hybrid cloud model. Cloud storage will replace many of the spinning disks you see in enterprise data centers today.

All of the benefits that the cloud as a component brings to mobility translates directly into the enterprise data center infrastructure. When a storage device in the data center absorbs the cloud as a component, it can now extend its own capacity beyond the physical footprint. The physical storage device becomes easy to replace and there is no risk of data loss because the data set is in the service. It is like a mobile device: replaceable and disposable. No more backups. No more migrations. Cloud makes it possible to synchronize data globally because the data is in the service and available everywhere.

This functionality has already been widely deployed in the consumer world. Its enterprise version already exists and is just beginning to enter the data center. Those who want to know what the future of the corporate data center looks like, just look at the consumer space. The future is there already.

Andres Rodriguez is CEO of Nasuni, which provides storage services through its storage services network. You can contact the author at AndresRod@nasuni.com.
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