The most important aspect of business operations today is data. There are numerous layers responsible for making data accessible including compute, memory and network resources. However, when we come down to what makes data accessible, we certainly think about storage. Storage is essential to making data accessible and if the storage layer goes away, we lose access to that data. Storage has certainly come a long way since the very first data storage systems were introduced for enterprise consumption. The last several years have seen even more changes to storage systems. What is the future of enterprise storage in 2018 and beyond? Which technologies are making waves in the world of enterprise storage? Let’s take a look at storage trends for the enterprise datacenter and technologies making a difference now and in the future.
Storage Trends for the Enterprise Datacenter
There are many storage technologies that have already gained momentum and will continue to gain momentum in the enterprise datacenter. However, there are also emerging technologies that are coming onto the scene and will have an impact as we have already seen so far. We will focus in, on the following areas:
- Cloud storage
- Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI)
- Object Storage
Let’s look at each of these above technologies and see how they are currently making an impact in the enterprise datacenter as well as how they will continue to impact enterprise datacenters tomorrow.
There is no doubt about it, the cloud has taken over the world of IT infrastructure today. Specifically, public cloud infrastructure by the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, and Google especially has transformed the way organizations think about running workloads and where they are storing their data. Organizations today generally run at least some part of mission critical workload storage in the public cloud infrastructure. This may include company email, calendars, employee specific storage, team drive storage as well as business critical databases, etc. It is clear that IT has moved past the reservations that were initially present with moving resources to the public cloud such as security.
Running resources in the public cloud today is as common as running resources in your own private datacenter. Everyone is doing it. Also, the public cloud vendors have certainly matured their offerings to allow much more reliable, secure, and diverse infrastructure that would never be possible or feasible to provision by individual companies running private infrastructure.
Cloud storage is getting cheaper and faster. The big public cloud vendors are offering tremendously cheap storage that runs on world-class infrastructure and is accessible from anywhere. Many organizations today have made the easy leap to run email and other core business services from public cloud workloads, utilizing public cloud storage. There is no doubt about it, public cloud storage is here to stay and will only grow in market share in the coming years.
Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI)
Hyperconverged Infrastructure or HCI has seen a tremendous boon to usage in the past year and will continue to gain momentum. Hyperconverged Infrastructure relies on at its core, software defined architecture to make an all-inclusive package of compute, memory, network, and storage all in the same core box. Software offerings such as VMware vSAN allows customers to purchase “ready-nodes” that are certified to run VMware vSAN and can be built in clusters of nodes that allow easily scaling out.
Businesses today are not as interested in the nuts and bolts of configuring systems from scratch with pairing compute, memory, and network devices with storage and trying to make all of those things work together effectively and without issues. The turnkey solutions that have flooded the hyperconverged market have made possible a whole new provisioning methodology. Businesses can quickly be, up and running with the underlying hardware and software and not have to worry about all the configuration and compatibility issues that come when trying to configure a set of hardware to work together effectively and in a stable manner. Hyperconverged Infrastructure and the software defined storage that is seen with VMware vSAN and other offerings are allowing businesses to look at storage for things like virtual machines in a whole new light.
The world of blockchain is certainly one that many organizations are taking a serious look at with developing new software and products that interact with and store data and often security information in the blockchain. What is blockchain? The Blockchain is most often associated with cryptocurrencies as this is generally where the term is seen most often. However, businesses today are figuring out very interesting ways to make use of the blockchain and the core technologies it is built on. Blockchain storage is decentralized meaning there is no one point of failure when it comes to losing data. All nodes in the blockchain run a distributed database where data is continuously replicated and compared between compute nodes that maintain the database. The information is not stored in a central location. This drastically enhances security when you think about the fact that there is no central version of stored data that can be stolen or corrupted by an attacker.
Organizations today and looking forward to the future are investing fiscal resources into blockchain technology development to make use of the massive network of decentralized distributed compute nodes that can serve various use cases. Look for trends and technologies in the storage realm in 2018 and beyond that make use of the massive blockchain networks.
While many storage systems rely on file-based systems using a file hierarchy or even block level systems that store data as blocks inside sectors and tracks, object-based storage stores data as objects. Object based storage isn’t really suited as well for performance sensitive workloads. Rather, the focus of object storage is scaling to store massive amounts of space even in the petabytes of data range fairly efficient. Object-based storage also has the capability of attaching very rich metadata to objects. As opposed to the static nature of the metadata other file-based storage systems implement, object-based storage systems have the ability to assign custom metadata for application specific purposes, policy, and other use cases.
Organizations scaling massive amounts of data in the future will no doubt make use of object-based storage systems at some point. Additionally, having the ability to utilize extremely rich sets of metadata enables organizations to build in very application specific use cases directly at the storage level.
An exciting performance advancement in the world of high-performance storage is Non-volatile Memory Express or NVMe which provides direct access to flash via PCI-e bus. This eliminates overhead that is incurred by other storage delivery technologies. NVMe has transformed the world of performance for storage systems. The mind-blowing IOPs performance that NVMe drives can deliver now shifts the bottleneck away from storage and actually back up to the network. NVMe is starting to be seen in some hybrid arrays that utilize this blazing fast storage medium as a cache before offloading to traditional storage as well as DAS storage in servers being seen on the market even today. There is also exciting work being done using NVMe over fabric technology which bypasses many of the bottlenecks seen using traditional storage arrays, the networks utilized and the block storage protocols involved. We will continue to see NVMe storage augmenting current systems as well as seeing the technology evolve in future storage systems.
The world of storage is arguably one, if not “the” most important layer of IT infrastructure as it relates directly to data. Data in today’s enterprise datacenter world is crucial. The need for data and data storage will continue to place extremely complex demands on enterprise datacenters as businesses today track and store everything. These demands will only continue to increase. The aforementioned storage technologies are definitely ones to keep an eye on as they are changing the way enterprise datacenters approach storage capacity, performance, and technology demands for various use cases. It will be interesting to see how these and other storage technologies continue to transform the way enterprise datacenters meet storage demands today and in the future.
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