The future of storage

Even in the current times, where budgets are under increased scrutiny due to the economic situation, the storage industry is not standing still. New technologies are constantly developed, and companies need to decide which technologies will be of benefit to them in the long run.

Current storage trends
In the current economic climate, storage managers are particularly interested in expanding storage capacity as data continues to grow unabated, enhancing disaster recovery plans, and improving storage performance to service the business users better, according to IDC’s European storage survey (IDC’s 2009 Annual European Storage Survey: Understanding User Needs in a Changing Economic Climate).
However, these initiatives typically increase the operational cost of the storage infrastructure. Adding storage capacity to cope with data growth is a very short-term strategy, which will lead to complexity and management nightmares, and ultimately, higher operational cost. Achieving a viable disaster recovery plan can also turn into a costly undertaking, if not well thought through. Finally, improving storage performance is often achieved through methods that result in low utilisation rates. This, in turn, drives the storage capacity expansion and operational costs higher.
With the above in mind, it should not be surprising that the currently hot storage technologies enable users to achieve what they aim for, but at the same time enable them to reduce operational cost and increase storage efficiency. The timing couldn’t be better since it has become clear that storage is reaching a new phase of maturity. This new phase is one where storage resources need to be used as efficiently as possible, and where old strategies of just increasing capacity without addressing operational cost or underutilisation of storage are no longer viable. This is even true for those that have put such efficiencies aside to achieve increased performance. This is a trend that will continue beyond 2009 as it ushers in a new phase where returning to previous levels of wasted storage capacity is not an option.  
There are a multitude of technologies out there, which help to tame data growth and support solving the storage efficiency challenge. Data deduplication, for example, has been the hot topic recently, as it helps to buck with the data growth trend. But this is hardly the only new and exciting storage technology addressing the industries new problems. Other technologies like thin provisioning and storage virtualisation provide greater storage utilisation and cost-efficient DR (respectively) are also in high demand. Storage management software is seeing increased interest because it enables users to manage across storage silos, whereas archiving is seen as a means to reduce primary data by off-loading to an archive.

Technologies of tomorrow
So what storage technologies are shaping the storage strategies of tomorrow? Cloud storage is shaping up as the future architecture for storage deployment, and storage-as-a-service is the first step in this direction. Cloud storage is essentially a way of architecting storage infrastructure by using standard building blocks, in which management is automated to a large degree and efficiency is paramount.
File-based technologies like file virtualisation will see increased demand as well, as most of the data growth comes from the unstructured side. The before mentioned survey has shown for several years in a row, that e-mail and file-related applications are driving data and storage growth.  
SSD is a technology much talked about, but still with very limited adoption, as it is currently more than ten times more expensive than traditional disk storage. As storage administrators are evaluating this technology, they need to keep in mind that it is just a point solution, which actually emphasises the need for intelligent storage tiering. With another storage tier available (tier zero) at a high cost, storage administrators will not be able to resort to the good old “keep everything on primary storage” approach. By having a robust software layer in place to manage storage tiering, ILM can finally be implemented and its benefits (lower cost and better data management) can be achieved. SSD will most likely drive in mixed environments, where a limited number of SSDs is in the same enclosure as a large number of SATA drives bundled with automated storage tiering software.

Be prepared for the future
In order to architect a future-proof storage environment, good old management principles still apply. Consolidate and standardise your storage infrastructure, deploy storage virtualisation software for cost effective DR and invest in a solid storage management layer to simplify and automate management. Thus, you can take advantage of new innovative technologies, which most likely will be point solutions to start with, and maintain a solid management layer.

Please register to comment on this article