Wednesday, 04 May 2016 17:14

Disruptive storage technologies vie for dominance

By Jennifer Foreshew

It has been three decades since the global storage market’s last major transition from tape-based storage to disk-based storage. Now a similar shift is taking place from disk-based storage to flash-based storage and an interesting juncture is expected to play out over the next couple of years as disruptive technologies emerge and become established.

The technologies leading the charge are all-flash arrays, software-defined and the presence of hyper-convergence now touted by vendors as having “data centre in the box’’ benefits.

External storage spending in Australia contracted 18.7 per cent in 2015, according to the recently released IDC Asia/Pacific Storage Systems Tracker, Q4 2015.

The flash-based array market includes both all-flash arrays (AFAs) and hybrid flash arrays (HFAs).

IDC Asia Pacific enterprise computing vice-president Rajnish Arora says all-flash is off to a strong start as the dominant technology in the next five years.

“I think customers really understand both the technology and the business value of flash but what holds them back is the whole challenge that goes on that flash is still very expensive versus the spinning disks,’’ he says. “I think what they are looking at is probably more the upfront costs rather than the cost of the technology over a period of time.’’

IDC found the share of all-flash array spending grew 38.8 per cent as a result of which the share of AFAs within the total external storage market increased from 3.2 per cent in 2014 to 5.5 per cent in 2015. AFAs will account for more than 20 per cent of external storage spending by 2020.

Arora predicts a lot of customers will start to come around to using flash in the next few years.

“It is a complete no-brainer in terms of how significantly disruptive the technology is,’’ he says. “This is going to do for the storage industry what virtualisation did for the server market seven or eight years back.’’

Software-defined storage is defined as virtualised storage with a service management interface.

Arora says different vendors are trying to pitch their story around software-defined storage at this point in time.

“It is starting to get traction, but it is still very much each vendor’s play and I don’t think any of these products can really work in a fashion where they are agnostic to the underlying market,’’ he says.

Hyper-convergence is described as a type of infrastructure system with a software-centric architecture that tightly integrates compute, storage, networking and virtualisation resources and other technologies from scratch in a commodity hardware box supported by a single vendor.

“I think the challenge that most customers have is to be able to get a consistent level of storage services across all of their data using any of these approaches,’’ Arora says.

IDC estimates that the size of the worldwide software-defined storage market, including hyper-converged, was $US5.62 billion in 2015. Hyper-converged systems are estimated to be worth $US398 million.

He says there is no “one-trick pony’’ for all of an organisation’s workload requirements.

“I would say these are three different approaches to making a storage environment much more efficient, much more resilient and scalable.’’

“It is not an either/or approach,’’ he says. “It just depends on an organisation what the profile mix of their work is.’’

He says vendors with a strong portfolio are EMC, IBM and HPE.

“I think each of these vendors has a fairly comprehensive set of solutions that snap on.’’

Manish Goel, senior vice president and general manager of HPE’s storage business says globally the vendor’s single largest all-flash system has been deployed in Australia.

“We have been growing consistently triple-digits in that flash market,’’ says Goel, who is responsible for HPE’s $US4billion storage business globally.

He says data centres of the future will have all-flash systems which will be significantly more compact and more proficient from a power and space standpoint.

“It depends on the workload and the customer environment but it can be anywhere up to 70 per cent more compact,’’ Goel says.

HPE has publicly referenced programs like “The Machine’’ which point to a convergence and collapse of memory into computing.

“So flash is a transition and a harbinger of the IT architecture of the future which is where computing and memory will be coinciding with each other.”

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