STORAGE

  • 01/05/2015
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2015 Storage Industry Outlook

From faster and larger SSDs to the rise of white-box storage, this year promises to bring a lot of change and innovation to the storage industry.

After years of same-old same-old, we are heading into a period of innovation and change in the IT industry. New software approaches are altering the way systems are assembled and are affecting hardware configurations at all levels down to the components.

The primary driving force in all of this is the increase in system-level horsepower that’s resulted from SSD/flash storage and much faster networks. Total system performance has closed the gap on CPUs and caught up with Moore’s Law. In the future, we’ll see system performance doubling every two years, rather than just CPU power.

The new horsepower is challenging the industry’s creative powers. Obvious evolutions include faster and larger SSDs, but 2015 will also bring new classes of drives, with specifications characterized around wear-out. For instance, there will be “archiving” SSDs, which, with a write-once mentality driving them, will use 3D TLC structures to increase capacity. Next year, we’ll see flash products up to 5 TB. By the end of 2016, these may match the largest available hard drives, at 10 TB. This will build a debate over SSD-only datacenters.

At the performance-end of the SSD market, we’ll have plenty of choice in Non-Volatile Memory express-based drives (NVMe). These are screamingly fast units, rated to 1 million random IOPS or beyond, that are well-matched to in-memory databases. SATA Express looks like next year’s choice of interface for these drives, with motherboards in the pipeline already.

In-memory databases present their own challenges to conventional system design. Systems with as much as 6 TB of DRAM are available, though the sweet spot seems to be at 1 TB in 1U or 2U server. SanDisk has a companion to DRAM which puts flash in a DIMM and takes advantage of the memory bus speed. This will gain momentum in 2015, with instant-on capabilities and increased capacity per flash DIMM. 3D stacked cell technology in flash will be the driver for this.

In 2015, we'll also see the containerization trend have a growing impact on storage installations. Storage performance is already under pressure for virtualized systems, and using containers increases that. One alternative is to distribute storage in a "Virtual SAN,” with the drives co-resident with the server engines. With a careful distribution of data, which may prove too difficult, this should radically speed up instances. 2015 will be the year VSANs rise or fall as a solution.

Another trend will be “naked” drives, with just Ethernet interfaces. Seagate and HGST are already delivering product, and in both cases, the fit with “hot” storage software stacks like Ceph has come together well. At the same time, Ceph is proving to be a very flexible open-source storage solution, allowing for more traditional appliance designs, too. It has universal storage support (block-IO, object, and file access) and can run with its elements structured anywhere from virtual instances to dedicated appliances.

With Red Hat now supporting Ceph, a mainstream open source stack will lead to creation of a low-cost storage appliance market most likely driven by the Chinese ODMs who serve Google, AWS, and Azure in huge volumes. In 2015, these storage white boxes will begin to take noticeable marketshare from the traditional vendors, which are trying to reposition themselves as software and services providers.

Storage packaging will see subtle changes in 2015, as more buyers opt for pre-assembled clusters at either the rack or the container level. This approach will allow most enterprises the opportunity to consider Open Compute Project types of storage, thereby getting some of the minimalist benefits the big cloud providers enjoy. The ODMs are stepping up to the plate on this, offering all the needed components as a “Lego” kit, as well as integration services.


Comments

SSDs

Jim, thanks for providing a view into storage trends we can expect this year. With regards to the faster and larger SSDs, what kind of pricing do you think we can expect?

Re: SSDs

I think large SSD will have a premium for a little while, during the early adopter phase, but by 3Q 2015 they should be leading the $/Gigabyte league for SSD.

With 3D stacking of flash, we may see drastic price cuts at year end 2015, and on into 2016. Intel and others are talking up parity of SSD and HDD by 2017 in capacity, and also in price, though I'm a bit dubious.

Blowing the smoke aside, we'll be discussing all-flash datacenters seriously by the end of 2016.

Re: SSDs

I feel that by the end of 2016, when all-flash datacenters become a very real possibility, then cloud providers will offer many more analytical services to consumers. Much in the same way as Google provides everyone with 15GBs of free cloud storage. And, HD content distribution will also be a service that is in high demand in the consumer space.

Re: SSDs

"I feel that by the end of 2016, when all-flash datacenters become a very real possibility, then cloud providers will offer many more analytical services to consumers. Much in the same way as Google provides everyone with 15GBs of free cloud storage. And, HD content distribution will also be a service that is in high demand in the consumer space."

Brian, hopefully. Cloud technology can offer amazing solutions to storage technology and can complimenting each other.

Re: SSDs

I recently talked to a cloud service provider that plans to move to all flash next month, so the all-flash data center has already arrived. 

Re: SSDs

"I recently talked to a cloud service provider that plans to move to all flash next month, so the all-flash data center has already arrived. "

Marcia, arrived, but not so common. I mean the shift will happen gradually. 

Re: SSDs

Most definitely it's not common, Mynet. This organization I talked to is very much on the cutting edge. I just thought it was interesting to find a company that is doing all flash.

Re: SSDs

I should be common practice, flash for data storage is a cost effective method. Maybe there is not a lot of profit in it any longer for the big companies to take seriously.

Re: SSDs

Jim,

However do you see the possibility for Swapping out of existing HDDs with Flash SSDs unless some of the existing HDDs break down?

Will the performance boost be big enough to prompt that change?

From Personal Experience/Perspective the Answer today is most definitely a No.

But that can change going ahead and we see more Flash SSDs entering the Datacentre over the next 2-3 years or so.

 

Re: SSDs

If you use SSDs with SAS or PCIe interfaces, you will find that the RAID controller on a typical older array maxs out on IOPS with just 4 to 6 SSD. The tpyical controller is good for maybe 700,000 IOPS, and this may be much lower for older controllers (4+ years old). Host adapters also max out, though simple connectiviy cards have much higher IOPS rates than host-based RAID cards.

If you have multiple array boxes, spread the SSD over the boxes, giving you a distributed primary tier and co-residence with a distributed secondary tier. Data organisation and LUNS could be complicated if you do this, but performance of the SSD will be much better.

Security issues

I couldn't find his views on security issues in this article. I would be happy to provide my views on this topic. I couldn't find any references to security issues regarding storage technology.  I have been in the security field for 30 years. I started with a bygone mainframe and then to desktop and eventually tablets and mobiles all involving storage technologies. My interest in security grew out of my casual conversation with the late Rear Admiral (Navy) who made astounding predictions about security issues twenty years ahead of her time. She was my thesis advisor.

Re: Security issues

jmyerson,

You were very,very lucky to get a great thesis advisor who really-really knew their Stuff!

Very-Very Prescient !