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7 Storage Trends That Will Transform Your Data Center

  • After years of inertia, the storage industry is evolving at its fastest pace in three decades. This is creating the prospect of  vast change in the data center and a much better value proposition for IT pros.

    One of the hottest trends in the storage industry is the fast evolution of flash. Most of us have heard of 3D NAND, which promises to boost capacity and lower prices. This approach builds gates vertically, which means that more cells get packed in a given die. It’s still early days and there are layer alignment issues to overcome, but this means that vendors can hold die features size while increasing capacity per die by large factors.

    With these advances,  primary storage is rapidly becoming flash territory. Hard disk drives are way too slow. There are several approaches to this. On the one hand, we are moving towards direct-connected in-server storage and ultimately will be interfacing with ultra-fast NVMe drives via PCIe. On the other hand, all-flash arrays provide millions of IOPS and are aimed at solving shared-data problems.

    At the same time, alternative technologies are challenging flash. For example, Intel and Micron just announced a new, fast alternative to flash which will bridge the speed gap between flash and DRAM. This XPoint technology promises to revolutionize computing by providing a mechanism for persistent RAM memory on computer systems. Details are still hazy about what core technology is used to store data, while software implications are very complex, but a world of large in-memory systems looks to be just over the horizon.

    Other trends aiming to shake up the staid world of storage include open source code and white-box storage. With hardware almost universally converged on COTS, software portability and system integration barriers are falling. The reliance on very expensive vendor-integrated solutions  is unnecessary today, leaving the door open for low cost whiteboxes as appliances and drives bought at low distribution prices. It’s worth noting that fast mid-tier SSD beat out enterprise hard drives on price at the distribution level, though that isn’t the case with traditional vendors.

    Software stacks are available from the open-source community to create powerful and well-featured storage solutions. We are seeing something of a Linux-type revolution in storage, which in the end will change the spectrum of vendors we deal with.

    Continue on to find out more about these and other trends that are impacting data center storage.

    (Image: Henrik5000/iStock)

  • Flash storage: denser and cheaper with extended life

    We now have 16TB solid-state drives, exceeding even the densest bulk storage hard drive in capacity. With mid-tier SSDs priced 50% lower than enterprise hard drives while running as much as 1000x faster, the latter are about to fade away. Once the new innovations in 3D NAND and wear-life extension really kick in, sometime in the 2017 timeframe, SSDs will be within the price range of even bulk storage hard drives, and the era of the spinning drive will come to an end.

    (Image: YuriyVlasenko/iStock)

  • Flash alternatives

    Products such as XPoint storage and ReRAM, together with closer coupling approaches such a Hybrid Memory Cube and its variants, will impact systems from 2017 onwards, though it will be a battle royal to usurp a well-entrenched flash technology.

    A number of vendors are looking at variations of HMC designs, where 3D die stacking and the use of TSVs extends to stacking the CPUI/GPU and memory devices on modules with unprecedented bandwidth, possibly exceeding a terabyte per second. XPoint-type designs seem to fit this model, though there are other technologies in competition, such as ReRAM (HP) and spintronic memories.

    The bottom line is that server performance will take a big step upward, changing how jobs are distributed in the server pool and the size and layout of next-generation data centers.

    (Image: 3D XPoint chip dies via Micron)

  • The evolution of primary storage

    Primary storage is rapidly evolving in two directions, with and very fast direct-attached PCIe-NVMe SSDs in virtual SANs competing with all-flash arrays. It is too early to declare a winner and this will lead to a period of confusion involving hyperconverged systems battling storage appliances and a repositioning of all the vendors.

  • The death of the SAN

    Ethernet has surpassed Fiber-Channel on every front and is evolving faster. With Ethernet also underpinning new storage approaches from object storage to big data, the writing is on the wall for the SAN approach. SANs will take a while to go away, but the modern data center needs to be built around the new approaches or face rapid obsolescence.

    (Image: Breecedownunder/iStock)

  • White-box storage

    We face a Linux-like revolution in storage. Traditional vendors mark up COTS gear heavily, creating a sense of injustice, while the barriers to self-integration of reliable solutions have fallen dramatically. The key is that COTS provides a stable well-defined target for the integration process. From a user perspective, the new approach will allow access to the same technology that the large cloud service providers use, providing the benefits of their volumes and low pricing.

    (Image: ClkerFreeVectorImages/Pixabay)

  • Software-defined storage

    The concept of moving control code into virtual server instances looks set to reduce storage costs even further. The benefits of more agile operation and even lower appliance costs such make this approach compelling for users and bring much more competition and innovation to the storage market.

    Another benefit of SDS will be the explosion of innovators in the storage space. This will add a great deal of value aside from the lowered costs we can expect, and will introduce a healthy level of competition.

    (Image: nevarpp/iStock)

  • The cloud

    The cloud is a driving force for much of the change well see in storage. The cloud brings new economics of scale and the innovation the cloud to the market place, which is forcing change for IT technology.

    Whether all storage eventually ends up in the cloud is something for a larger debate, though the issue will not be resolved before the telcos provide widespread fiber WAN connections. Until then, we will be shackled by the need to feed systems fast enough.

    (Image: Wavebreakmedia/iStock)