We live in a truly fascinating era of technology. Multiple avenues of innovation, such as blockchain, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, are poised to fundamentally transform business. Will it happen over night? No. Will it happen in 2018? To a degree. But more importantly, 2018, and probably 2019, will be about preparing for these new innovations by transforming IT to compete in the digital age. The bottom line is that in five years or so, the more digitally adept businesses will have already won, and it will be too late for a company to redefine itself. In other words, the time for IT transformation is now. It is this urgent need for transformation that provides the background for my 2018 predictions for enterprise storage.
My first two predictions call out technology trends that I expect to shape the storage infrastructure narrative as IT organizations attempt to drive for greater efficiency in meeting digital business demands.
With flash everywhere, IT turns to NVMe. For the past couple years, the easiest prediction in enterprise storage has been the increased adoption of flash. And, I obviously expect this trend to continue. My prediction for 2018, however, is that IT organizations will come to expect the all-flash data center to be a current, or at least near-term, reality. And in anticipation, IT leaders will begin to optimize the rest of the IT infrastructure for flash, specifically with the integration of NVMe technology. In 2018, ensuring the storage network can deliver the necessary NVMe support (such as with NVMe of Fabrics) will become a priority.
We begin to manage the data in this multi-cloud world, instead of storage. Based on ESG research, not only has the adoption of public cloud services risen, but also the majority of organizations that leverage the public cloud leverage more than one. This is true not just for SaaS, but for IaaS providers as well. In 2018, I expect these trends to continue, but there will be a shift in the dynamic between public cloud services and on-premises storage vendors. Partnering between on-premises storage players and public cloud providers will increase significantly. And differentiation among options will start to take the form of how well the resulting solution can leverage the value-added services (such as analytics) that public cloud providers offer. For this to work, however, the paradigm has to shift from managing volumes of storage to developing the right tools to better understand and manage the underlying data. In other words, solutions that treat the public cloud as just off-premises hardware without allowing the business to leverage the cloud provider’s more advance data functionality will find themselves at a disadvantage.
My third prediction will be more difficult to track, but will be far more influential. Actually, I expect this trend will dominate the IT landscape for not only 2018, but possibly the next five years.
“Easy to use” becomes too difficult to manage. As long as I have been in the IT industry I have never had anyone tell me their technology was difficult to use. If you listen only to the vendors, everything is easy. If that were the case, then why is managing IT so difficult? It’s simple. If you have 1,000 things to manage, it doesn’t really matter how simple they are to manage. You still have 1,000 things to manage. After years of IT demands rapidly increasing, this is where we are with IT today. For 2018, an “easy to use” enterprise storage solution will no longer be good enough. The more advanced IT organizations are leveraging automation/orchestration layers to automate activities and develop self-service portals. APIs are great and are a must, but as IT leaders look more toward application development orchestration frameworks, such as kubernetes, Puppet, or Chef, optimized and validated solutions in these or similar environments will become differentiators. In other words, in 2018, if it isn’t automatic, it isn’t easy enough. The bottom line is that success in the digital economy will be determined in part by how well IT processes are automated.
When we look back on 2018 a year from now, multiple technologies, such as flash, NVMe, and cloud, will have helped improve IT capability and efficiency. It will be the rise of automation, however, that will transform the business landscape and play a key role in separating the winners and the losers in the digital economy.