Data Storage Outlook for 2016

data center

The world’s stored data is scaling sharply upward, with business data alone growing between 60% and 100% a year in the average data center. Data storage is becoming more important to capacity, performance, protection and value. Let’s look at some of the top storage trends we should expect to see in 2016.

Flash Storage and the Data Center

Flash storage adoption in the data center has taken off. It still only represents about 15% of all data center storage, but sales are rapidly increasing. Flash’s market sweet spot is where it does best: providing high throughput and low latency for Tier 1 applications. All-flash arrays are selling particularly well although sales are strong in flash cache and hybrid arrays as well.

Growing sales finally seem to have affected disk sales in the high performance storage segment. High capacity, lower cost HDDs like SATA remain firmly planted in the data center but flash is outselling high performance disk. High throughput and low latency are not the only reasons: so are all-flash arrays’ smaller footprints and flash’s overall lower energy usage.

Lower prices have certainly made a difference in spurring flash sales although hard drive prices are also falling. Capex purchasing costs are still more expensive when you compare high performance flash to high performance disk, but better performance plus cheaper Opex quickly closes that gap.

Cautionary note: You might read a steady drumbeat of vendor and press content referring to flash as “disk killing.” This is silly. It’s true that flash is on track to outpacing enterprise disk, but high capacity disk far outstrips flash density, even with dedupe and compression. That may change in the next few years but it will not any time soon. Flash and HDDs will continue to operate perfectly well together for some time to come: flash for high performance/low latency applications and HDDs for longer term data retention for inactive files – which comprise about 80% of corporate data storage.

Cold Storage and Tape

Speaking of that 80%, Enterprise Features recently posted a blog introducing cold storage. Cold storage, also called deep archives, stores inactive data for high capacity data retention and data access. It fills the gap between active archiving data on nearline disk and fast tape libraries, and extreme archives on very cold storage environments such as optical disk, off-vault tape and some cloud offerings.

Maintaining high capacity storage while protecting file access is best done on object-based storage that can easily and cheaply scale out storage. High capacity, cheaper disk is the best storage medium for this cold storage tier because of reasonable access times in minutes, not hours or days. Several vendors are experimenting with high capacity drives for cold storage such as increasing SATA density, object drives, cloud drives for cold storage in the cloud, SMR, and even layered Blu-ray optical disk.

Tape is also still in the game. It’s not as good a march for keeping inactive data accessible given the expense of high performance, nearline tape libraries. But for high capacity active archiving, nearline tape can be an excellent fit for maintaining fast data access for analytics with the cost efficiencies of tape.

Storing Data in the Cloud

Companies have a growing interest and investment in cloud storage. SMB led the way with cloud backup, beginning with simple backup to the cloud and continuing on with more sophisticated backup applications for faster backup and restore for large datasets.

Now mid-sized businesses and enterprises are getting involved in the cloud for data protection and disaster recovery testing and failover.  Cloud-based failover is particularly attractive for highly virtualized environments.

Cloud-based failover can spin up a virtual data center in the cloud while admins repair disaster-related damage in the data center. When the on-premise hosts are back up, the cloud can restore application servers and data and keep operating until the primary data center is ready for failback. The cloud is also attractive for providing enterprise distributed storage without a big company investment in multiple global data centers for data sharing and redundancy.