What Could 2022 Bring?

It’s the end of the year and time to let 2021 inform us as to what we might expect in 2022.  We’re leaving another year that disrupted how we conduct business and store and process data.  Thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more employees at both large and small firms are working from home, transforming enterprise networks into distributed data infrastructures.

What can we expect going forward? Let’s look at data storage industry trends.

Much More Than Flash in a Pan

Let’s start with low-hanging fruit.  The cost of flash continues to decline and the use of flash for storage grows, not just in the U.S. but in Asia and elsewhere.  Flash has always had distinct advantages over spinning disks, such as greater read/write performance, more compact form factors, and less energy consumption.  The costs of the new technology, however, impeded its adoption, but that’s changing as it inevitably would.  The timing is good because more and more applications, from customer-facing transactional interfaces to artificial intelligence, are leveraging the performance of flash.

There are additional impacts.  For example, flash can lower the operational expenses of data centers by reducing energy and cooling costs, which could influence the presence of on-site storage.  All-flash arrays are becoming affordable for even small businesses, such as the new JetStor© XF2026D platform.  The 26-bay device offers storage capacities up to 399 terabytes and can scale out to over four petabytes.  Finally, low latency flash performance is within the reach of SMBs.

Multiple Clouds & Hybrids

This is another prediction that doesn’t require the prophetic skills of Cassandra.  The use of multiple clouds and hybrid models comprised of both on-site and cloud environments will continue into 2022.  Enterprises began turning to clouds for their agility, simplicity, and cost-effective elasticity.  But they realized that clouds can introduce latency and security issues, and turned to the hybrid model.  Moreover, enterprises began relying on multiple clouds for an extra measure of data protection and to avoid lock-in.  Going forward, we will continue to see enterprises controlling their data and critical applications in their on-site data centers while gaining the scalability and agility offered by multiple clouds.

Containerization

Another inexorable trend appears to be the proliferation of containers and the attendant use of Kubernetes.  Back in IT’s Neolithic era, a server hosted a single application, but this was inefficient because the hardware was underutilized.  Then servers began hosting multiple applications.  When it came to sharing resources, however, applications did not always play nicely with each other, cutting into performance and availability.  Virtualization came to the rescue in which servers hosted multiple virtual machines (VMs), each with an OS, an application, and supporting resources.  Each application has its boundaries on the server, security was enhanced, and a crashed application did not take down the entire server.

Then containers arrived.  Containers share the OS and are highly portable, including across multiple clouds.  They offer efficiencies and agility over VMs, and enable microservices.  Microservices break down applications from monolithic entities to a series of services that can be modified or updated independently.  Gartner reports that in 2022 most enterprises will be deploying containerized applications (https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3902966).

With the number of containers within many networks growing to the thousands, an essential resource will be Kubernetes.  Kubernetes is open-source code that was developed by Google to manage, and automate containerized services.  Expect storage solutions that support Kubernetes and simplify the portability of containers.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) (and its close cousin, machine learning) is still gaining its footing, but it won’t be a toddler for long.  AI was initially used to reduce data center energy costs and then for weather forecasting, but its commercial applications will mushroom in 2022 and beyond.  AI, however, is extremely data-intensive and will put great pressure on enterprise and cloud storage resources.  Implementing AI will demand very robust storage that scales out easily and cost-effectively.  Expect hardware and software solutions that support AI.

Will It Ever End?  The Continuing Rise of Archival Data

Much has been written about the decentralization of enterprise data networks.  Due to the pandemic, employees are working from home and, as a result, there’s a rapid growth of data that’s generated outside the data center.  Moving this data from the edge to the data center entails risks and costs, with the solution being local storage to protect data.  Most of these data will soon be cold, meaning they must be saved for any number of reasons, but they no longer need to be accessed frequently.  Archival data has always been around, but they are now consuming more and more storage resources.

Creating a storage tier for archival data offers advantages.  Because the data needs to be preserved rather than accessed, especially quickly, the tier can be slow and, therefore, very inexpensive.  Often, tape is the go-to medium for archival storage.  Retrieving data from tape can be time-consuming, but the costs can’t be beaten.  Additionally, cold storage can help thwart ransomware attacks by keeping data out of the reach of ne’er-do-wells, and multiple copies also safeguard against threats like natural disasters.

Storage vendors will target these needs with new, innovative solutions.  The JetStor 824iX storage array, for example, is ideal for branch office and edge deployments.  With multiple JetStor JBOD systems, the 24-bay platform can store some five petabytes of data.

There’s Always More

There are other predictions, such as the growth of edge computing and computational storage, as well as new security solutions, but many have been covered elsewhere.  Don’t become too invested in predictions.  While it’s always wise to peek over the horizon, it’s also wise to anticipate the unexpected.