Big Data, Big Problems?
Call us pessimists, but while storage capacity growth rates are down from last year, the sources of expansion are changing--and in a way that could be dangerous if we're not careful.
In aggregate, structured and unstructured data are now neck-and-neck as the leading growth sources in Tier 1. At Tiers 2 and 3, however, it's no contest: Unstructured data is the culprit, voraciously consuming every terabyte we throw at it. Fully 77% of our respondents list some form of unstructured data as the leading source of Tier 2 storage growth; that's up from 70% last year. For Tier 3, the share is an equally commanding 71%.
The rapid growth of unstructured data in Tier 3 is also apparent when looking at retention rates. The top four data types retained for up to five years are unstructured. We did see one small but encouraging sign of growing discipline in storage management--specifically, a drop in the percentage of respondents with no retention policies at all. This indicates that formalized information management, once confined to databases, has spread to unstructured content in the majority of companies--and just in time, too.
The fact that we're keeping piles of unstructured data for years and years brings up a question: Where do we put it? For some, the cloud is the answer. The share of respondents saying they have absolutely no plans to use cloud storage dropped eight points this year, while the number using it in some capacity, whether for email, archiving, or backup and recovery, increased by eight points. One respondent sums up the main driver nicely: "Because of the cost of maintaining and managing storage, I am looking more to the cloud for nonessential data storage and backup."
Still, that protective instinct is at play. Roadblocks to greater cloud adoption remain largely unchanged from last year: security, reliability, and performance. We'll be watching to see how cloud vendors go about assuring IT that they can protect our data. Meanwhile, they're clearly getting their cost-effectiveness message across: The share of respondents labeling cost a major concern dropped nine points. Since we didn't see any big cloud storage price wars in the past year, this could reflect IT's growing understanding of the model's benefits.
5 Smart Steps To Take
2012 is shaping up as a good year to address storage problems that have been allowed to languish, since the portion of our respondents citing budget constraints as a top concern dropped six points this year.
As you refine your storage plans for 2012, here are five areas to address:
>> Develop a solid-state strategy: Merely replacing high-end HDDs with SDDs leaves potential performance gains on the table. That's because conventional storage arrays are designed to work around the inherent deficiencies of a mechanical system. So think beyond solid-state disks to solid-state systems. Look for I/O-bound applications that can benefit from orders-of-magnitude improvements in throughput and latency, and where there's more bang for the buck in adding speed vs. adding capacity.
>> Consolidate intelligently: Most IT shops are still sitting on a large base of direct-attached storage, but the widespread adoption of server virtualization has many planning consolidation projects. Clearly, the new generation of scale-out storage hardware couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Finally, IT doesn't need to blow big bucks on a huge FC storage frame to consolidate effectively. Think about whether some applications that are already virtualized, particularly those with large and rapidly growing capacity requirements, might work better on an Ethernet-based scale-out system.
>> Continue data/storage network consolidation: With the price of 10-Gbps Ethernet dropping below $200 per port and integrated 10-Gbps interfaces becoming the norm on new server and storage hardware, it's time to get serious about making Ethernet your storage backbone.
>> Get serious about encryption: Data security remains most cloud users' biggest concern. But data loss isn't an issue only when using outside services; it's now the leading storage concern in general, and encryption has become one of the top technologies buyers look at when evaluating new ways to protect information. But it's not enough to just get some self-encrypting drives and hope for the best--you still need to worry about key management and protecting data in flight to and stored in the cloud. So get a holistic encryption plan in place.
>> Develop a cloud storage strategy: Those not using cloud storage and with no plans to do so should be freeing up funds for these projects. Cloud storage is mature, reliable, and particularly well suited for data backup, archival, and disaster recovery scenarios. Security doesn't need to be a deal breaker. Do an analysis of total cost of ownership going out five years and use providers selectively.
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