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August 12, 2019

The Future Of Enterprise Storage

The transformation supported by storage of data on large cloud-scale storage platforms, including changeover from software-aligned storage and hyper-converged systems is the current trend and companies are taken over by the efficiency.

Surprise surprise! Or maybe not? Traditional enterprise storage is being phased out and it's happening faster than you could have anticipated. Usage of bulky old-school storage boxes in data centers  by big businesses is no longer something desirable. The transformation supported by storage of data on large cloud-scale storage platforms, including changeover from software-aligned storage and hyper-converged systems is the current trend and companies are taken over by the efficiency.

This change is largely due to the developments supported by the internet of things.  And yet, the question: "What are the most popular enterprise storage solutions?" remains one of the most asked. Thus, this article attempts to answer the question while bringing to light the real future of storage.

It all started a couple of years back when a separate NAS and SAN storage box independent of the computer/server was developed to improve utilization of storage capacity within centralized models. The aim was to get more lifespan, centralization of enterprise data and reliability. EMC Symmetric was introduced and what followed was a widespread adoption which was promoted by the support of high-speed internal work. To date, the storage improved on its functionality to include a lot of features that enhance the scalability, durability, and reliability, and unfortunately, this also led to price increases and in addition, the features caused system bloat.

Coupled with the recent key trends, the bloating and expensive cost of storage, it is consistently under threat. Everything that counts as traditional storage that we love and rely on is currently under threat. This includes, for the most part, the cloud; simplicity and convergence; as well as virtualization and cost of operations. Taking everything into consideration, it's not even clear what the multibillion-dollar storage industry will be like come 2025.

Take a look at some of the significant changes in modern storage and you will be able to understand just how severely storage as we know it is under attack.

The Storage Iceberg

For better visualization and explanations, storage is often interpreted as an 'iceberg' that is made up of primary storage - this is the main memory used to run active apps, and secondary storage - used deeply but not to directly interact with applications. Through replication, secondary storage acts as a backup to the primary storage. The other uses of secondary storage include flexible means of workload management, enabling the processes of backup, compliance and archiving without the organization having to run these separately. Therefore, in this way, secondary storage also refers to cloud storage.

The Trends and How they Are Taking Over

When compared against each other, the differences between traditional and cloud storage are so big it's astonishing. The advantages of cloud-related storage outweigh the traditional by far. Firstly, with cloud storage, accessing data is easy. One can access their data at any time, from any connected device, as long as they sign into their cloud account. There is no need to carry physical storage anymore.

Companies that use public storage such as Microsoft or Amazon save significantly on costs as they pay only for the resources they use. The more work the organization stores on the cloud, the less storage space will be needed and more money saved in the long run while the efficiency of operations becomes clearer. Public storage platforms that identify as hyper-scale build their own storage and don't buy it; their price is directly from them to you. Additionally, the existence of 'open compute' initiatives and projects that assist organizations put together cloud-based storage systems without extra help makes it all easier and convenient to store on cloud systems.

The concept of buying storage independent of the core structure is almost completely phased out. Moving from traditional storage methods to the cloud removes the need of purchasing servers and a separate storage network. To increase security and further cut down costs more companies are resorting to buying storage, servers, and network as a package while converging everything together. Via convergence, traditional storage is absolved.

The New Faces of Storage

Cloud and convergence are all fair and fine, but there are also more models that are being introduced into the mix. The Solid-State Drives (SSDs) are the current trend. These are becoming more affordable, are compact and a lot more power-efficient than the traditional, electromechanical disks. By functionality, SSDs are relatively smaller in size and thus easier to use. They work through memory chips and not spinning platters, chips are smaller in size meaning an SSD will be small and made to last longer while consuming relatively less energy.

There is also the use of storage managed by a software layer - this is known as software-defined storage (SDS). It is used in the policy-based data storage management and provisioning without considering the underlying hardware being used.

Also changing the face of storage is Software-as-as-service (SaaS), a service that is popular among enterprises who use it for backup. When considering hardware, personnel and physical storage space, SaaS is a real cost saver. A dedicated administrator specifies the data on the network that should be backed up and the frequency of such backups. The admin can even sign service-level agreement (SLA) with information on how the SaaS provider rents storage space on a cost-per-data or cost-per-gigabyte basis.

The Future of Storage

Using the SLA/SaaS models for analysis, it is clear that the cloud is consumerizing storage. When new mobile phones have new apps installed on them, the apps also consume additional space used to store 'documents and data' in the form of pictures, files, videos, games and more. The storage is being occupied by all these apps which are necessary and can be viewed as more important than the hardware. With more improvements, storage is swiftly becoming just like smartphones - consumed applications with SLAs. The smartphones are the new cloud where various services and SLAs converge into a single system.

The next scramble is to find top enterprise data storage vendors in 2019 as that is where the future leads. Everything else can easily be neglected at this point. Cloud storage is mostly consumerized and the business focus is moving more towards the management of the infrastructure to hold data while also building services that have value as they utilize a lot of stored data.

If you are one to take initiative, this is the best time to do so. 

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