Peering into the Future: Storage in 2016

It’s the start of a new year and time for pundits to predict what we can expect in the storage market going forward. Let’s touch upon some of the more prominent trends.

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SSDs versus HDDs

Foremost, of course, is the inexorable adoption of SSDs by both the consumer and enterprise markets. The drivers are well reported. Superior I/O performance, decreasing cost per gigabyte, and lower energy consumption, which help offset the capital costs of flash-based drives.

Additionally, the capacity of SSDs continues to grow. 2TB SSDs are increasingly popular and 15TB SSD drives just been announced. This year, expect 512GB USB drives that fit in your pocket. There’s no reason why SSDs can’t eventually become more capacious than HDDS. As flash technologies improve, it’s only a matter of time before their prices drop quicker than HDDs.

In the more immediate future, all-flash arrays will continue to proliferate, replacing HDD arrays particularly for mission critical applications. As their per gigabyte costs come down, they will increasingly be used for other applications. SSDs will eventually replace HDDs as certainly as CDs and DVDs replaced audio and video cassettes.

Does this mean HDDs are extinct? Hardly. As long as they’re the cheapest way to store large data troves, they’ll continue to be around. For this reason, HDDs will still outsell SSDs in 2016. Moreover, they’ll continue to improve. We should see 10TB HDDs in the standard 3.5-inch form factor this year and it is predicted that in the next few years, their capacity will grow to 20TB, if not larger.

Additionally, innovations like Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) will increase the capacity of HDDs, although SMR will be used only for particular applications because of its limits on random reads. SMR will make spinning disks more cost-effective for archiving and cold data storage. Considering that LTO drives are slow and no longer offer significantly larger storage capacities, purpose-build HDDs will further undermine tape for archiving. It is reasonable to project, however, that SSDs will eventually replace even high-capacity HDDs for such applications.

Bigger Ethernet pipes

This long anticipated advance is finally arriving. 25GB Ethernet is hitting the market and it is backwards compatible with 10GB Ethernet. The cost of 25GB Ethernet will soon be competitive with 10GB, making it the de facto choice for new deployments. Can 50GB and 100GB Ethernet be far away?

Software-Defined Storage (SDS)

After countless articles and discussions, and many proofs of concepts, SDS should have its breakout year 2016. Decoupling storage functionality from physical devices offers too many advantages to not see widespread deployment in production environments.

Infrastructure convergence

More and more, storage is viewed not as a standalone component of the IT infrastructure, but as tightly wound with compute, network, and applications. For this reason, a trend that is arguably on its way to becoming the status quo is infrastructure convergence. Aggregating storage, compute, and network components from a single vendor and its partners simplifies ownership and management. We’ll start to see convergence not only in environments like ROBOs, but also in data centers.

Cloud storage

The cost of cloud storage continues to fall and now is very cost-competitive for both businesses and consumers. The limits of Internet bandwidth are mitigated by the availability of continuous data protection (CDP) solutions, which makes the cloud very appealing for secondary or tertiary backups. Assuming security is up to snuff, expect to see more enterprises storing data in clouds as well as at primary and secondary sites.

ARM servers

ARM processors are already used in consumer electronic devices because they are smaller in size, less complex, and consume less power. We’ll also see them in servers this year as their characteristics make them quite useful in data centers.

Non-Volatile Memory (NVM)

NVM is another technology that eventually will be making the rounds throughout the data center. NVM is non-volatile memory, which means data is saved when a device is turned off or loses its power. Though not as quick as RAM, NVM is faster than NAND flash. Its current costs will impede its adoption, but expect to see hybrid systems in which NVM provides a new tier of ultra-high speed storage. In these solutions, NVM will provide the blazing performance with NAND flash taking the role once held by spinning disks.

Check with us next year to see how well our crystal ball worked.