This Year in Storage

storage in 2016Happy 2016! Is that still allowed in February? Or, if you are like me, are you stunned that just over 8% of the year went by already!

Anyhow, while 'predictions' is an over-used word around this time of year, there's another 'P' word that has had more than its fair share of deployment in IT circles generally — and storage specifically — over the decades: the word is 'paradigm'. And especially shifts thereof! But sometimes cliches are cliches for a reason...

Scott Sinclair and I recently sat down to chat about both P words with regard to the storage industry over the coming year and beyond. In our age of being attention-challenged, it is worth noting that the resulting video is around 7 minutes. But (and hopefully it is not immodest) we think it turned out as a useful overview!

We wanted to eschew a simple "Top 40" style list of which technologies and vendors we see moving up or down the chart over the coming months and instead to look (to extend the musical analogy) for the sweeping changes in genre, instruments and transmission methods that could constitute an imminent paradigm shift for data storage and management.

As you will gather from the video, the changes are already happening, even if they are not yet fully standardized; and the real question is not really whether there is to be a paradigm shift in storage but instead which one or ones it will be.

Video transcript:

Woman: The following is an ESG360 video.

Mark: Hi. Mark Peters here to talk with my friend Scott Sinclair, about what's going on in the storage industry. Now, I think this gets billed as a predictions video, Scott, we're going to talk about what we see as I suppose the trends, the changes, the developments over the next year or so. So why don't you kick it off talking about what you see from, if you like, a technology perspective. What are the big shifts that we're really going to notice in the next year or so?

Scott: The next 12 months are really going to be defined by how the enterprise, on-premises storage industry responds to the rise of cloud services.

Mark: Public cloud? Private? Both?

Scott: Public cloud predominantly. If you look at just overall revenue and revenue growth, we're seeing a year in which Amazon AWS and Microsoft's cloud services are posting growth in the terms of 70%, 100% year over year. And these are multi billion dollar businesses. In terms of you look at something like EMC, which their product revenue has been essentially flat or in a slight decline a little bit. For years, we've seen people acknowledging the cloud, but to me, I think the next 12 months is we're going to start to see more dramatic movements of on-premises about, "How do we address cloud services, and how do we compete?" And I think we're going to see a couple of different areas.

I think we're going to see a continued array of acquisitions and mergers, or partnerships as companies try to get bigger and stronger to compete against cloud. I think we're also going to see more hybrid cloud messaging. I think the ones that have it right now are only going to get stronger. And If you don't have one, you're going to put one together this year.

Then I think finally I think we're going to see a lot more around data intelligence. Is understanding, "Okay, if I'm going to have a hybrid cloud, that means I have some stuff running on-premise, I have some stuff running in the public cloud. And so what does that mean? It means I've got to be intelligent around, what do I run on on-premises, and what do I run off-premises." And I think we're gong to start seeing more and more messaging around that as part of a hybrid cloud storage.

Mark: Does this shift from the traditional players to new ones, or do you think the traditional ones, if they change their message and their capabilities enough, have a role to play in this new world?

Scott: In terms of the large players, are going to stay the same. Now, the cloud players are going to continue to grow and continue to take, and that's the Microsofts, the ADWS. They're going to continue to grow from a cloud standpoint. From an on-premises standpoint, what I think we're going to see is more alliances and more partnerships. More to Dell, AMC, we're going to see HP try to get bigger and stronger around their message. We're going to see IBM try to get bigger and stronger around their messages.

And to some extent, we've seen some of these. NetApp announced their attempt to acquire SolidFire, we've seen with IBM going after Cleversafe and a number of other cloud technologies. And I see those as kind of the beginning or catalysts that are going to continue to start movement over the next year.

Mark: Everything has always been about the technologies and who's going to launch what. And how clever is GeoPathing or FIN provisioning or whatever the flavor of the month is. And I think and really this is led by the intended acquisition of EMC by Dell. That's just allowed everyone to go, "Oh God, we can actually start talking about what happens in the storage business."

Scott: Exactly.

Mark: Because one of the big players, irrespective of whether the Dell deal goes through or not, EMC is going to change. It's going to split up. And so we can now start talking about storage differently. And I think playing off what you were talking about with cloud, one of the other things going on in IT generally is convergence. Another big C-word.

Mark: Oh yeah.

Scott: And to me, what we've moved from is a world where we focus on if you like the granularity of the technologies, and IT is still going to be granular, but it's going to be granular in a different way because we're going to buy granular IT capabilities. So I know I'm taking a slightly different look at it, but I think taking what you said about cloud, throwing in the convergence. It means we're going to be focusing less on storage as a individual technology component, and people are going to be starting having conversations where storage is a component of an IT solution.

Now, you may say it always was, but you had to buy individual parts of it and have lots of people running around in Birkenstocks and white coats and twiddling buttons and controlling everything to make it work. It's easy to take what I've just said and, "Well, so storage is less important, it doesn't matter." I would argue, even though it may get moved from a technology to an overall IT element, that's going to put more pressure on vendors to produce better systems that integrate better into that final thing.

More pressure. We've all talked for years about storage vendors needing to talk about outcomes, and sometimes that's very difficult where you're just a component. "Hey, it's not the whole car, I'm just sending the carburetor, but it's a really good carburetor." But now we will be talking about that carburetor being part of how fast does the car go? How may people can sit in it? What's the miles per gallon? Or whatever else. So I think you're right, it's a very interesting time. Anything else from...I suppose I'm turning back to the technology, but I suppose we've got the usual things solid state. We'll continue to make strides. Object storage?

Scott: I think we're going to see object storage continue to rise. We've actually seen quite a bit of movement in acquisitions or partnerships from that standpoint. Like I just mentioned, IBM acquiring Cleversafe. You've seen where HP and Scality have announced things that strengthen their partnership together. So we are seeing a drive towards object storage, and that's part of that storage is still important. We're transcending the conversation past the technology to the actual benefits that it provides.

I think towards the end of this year, we're really going to start to see a number of strategic announcements and planning around some of these emerging technologies that are using solid state or solid state-like technology where the memory tends to exist in the DIMs. So I think Intel and Micron have their 3D XPoint. They've announced and they've talked about how that's going to appraise for coming up towards this year. I Think we're going to start to see a lot of vendors start talking about these types of solutions.

Diablo Technologies has a similar solution as well. And there's a number of players, I think that's an area where I think we could really see some really disruptive innovation over the next few years. I think it's still too early for that to take off over the next 12 years, but I think towards the end of this year, we're going to start to see a lot of messaging and a lot of strategic planning around that.

Mark: This is more trend than a particular prediction, but I often talk about it. It's changed from being a fight about individual technologies to more of a game of who controls the chess board or the Monopoly board or whatever game you'd like to put this to it. Who's got which pieces and can make which moves? And again that doesn't mean the technology is unimportant. It just means it's slightly under the covers from the way that the game is actually played.

Scott: Absolutely.

Mark: Thank you, Scott.

Scott: Thank you.

Mark: Thank you for watching. And you can check out all of ESG's prediction blogs and videos on our website.

software defined storage insight

Topics: Storage