These vendors are well-positioned in the enterprise storage market this year.
2017 is shaping up to be a year of great change in storage. The hard disk is dying and the result is that flash-based products are surging on all fronts, though Intel and Micron have a flash alternative in the pipeline. Object storage is gaining ground over traditional arrays. Software-defined storage is going to be hot, especially in hyperconverged architectures. Above all, 2017 will see the cloud, both public and hybrid, stealing growth away from the data center and its vendors.
Traditional storage array and filer vendors are looking for a share of the software and support revenue as hardware platforms enter into a race to the bottom driven by COTS gear and low-priced drives. Open source code seeks to compete with them, suggesting that we will have plenty of storage software choices for 2017 and beyond.
Storage-as-a-Service is a new alternative to data center disk farms and vendors are touting cloud-based variants as a solution for the hybrid cloud dilemma of where to place data. On top of all of this, old faithful storage interconnects such as SAS, SATA and Fibre Channel are now competing against upstarts like NVMe and NVMoF, while Ethernet has surged ahead in cost performance to become the cloud interconnect of choice.
Let’s look at some storage vendors that will be worth keeping an eye on in 2017. These are all companies with good plans, which, if fully executed, should give us leading products this year.
(Image: Wang An Qi/Shutterstock)
Samsung is in an enviable position in the flash space. It has leading-edge 3D NAND capability in the works and good solid designs. Samsung promises 100 TB 2.5 inch SSDs by 2020, which should take the bulk secondary storage market by storm as any drive price premium over HDDs is lost in the reduced number of appliances needed to host the new drives. With a good performance story too, Samsung should have a strong year in the flash market.
Western Digital’s HGST and SanDisk businesses are potentially a strong technical team in the SSD space, though a lack of foundries may slow technology deployments. WD still has to settle out product overlaps, too.
(Image: Samsung 32 TB SAS SSD/Source: Samsung)
Integrated into many OEM hyper-converged appliances, including Dell Tech systems, Nutanix is currently the dominant software stack player in the high-growth HCI game. Its approach fits the software-defined storage model, which means it’s a virtualized, scalable solution. Performance is improving, especially on boxes built with RDMA links across the cluster of nodes. The product is easy to use and adding new nodes is fully automated.
Nutanix’s code is commonly available in just a few boxes made by the pricier traditional vendors. Its main competitor in the space, SimpliVity, is more open, recently signing a deal with Huawei, for example. Ultimately, like Linux, code from both vendors will be available to run on standard COTS gear from many vendors, making for a wide range of price and support alternatives for the customer.
(Image: Nutanix Xpress/source: Nutanix)
Hardware platforms are racing to the bottom. Suppliers of COTS systems from China are moving into US and EU distribution and end user sales, with much lower prices. These moves are predicated on having unbundled software, but growing acceptance of the software-defined storage model, coupled with open source code, makes this trend inevitable.
Of all the new platform suppliers, Supermicro has demonstrated very strong and consistent growth over the last eight years and is now a major player in hardware supply. Roughly 30% of its sales are storage, but comparing its revenues with traditional OEMs is tricky since Supermicro uses a lower price and margin model and sells few drives. Supermicro has a “Lego” approach to products that gives it a lot of agility, great quality, and the broadest product offering in the COTS market, especially in HCI. It's also a leader in delivering NVMe capability to servers.
Supermicro is beginning to see more competition from Lenovo, Huawei and from the ODMs such as Quanta. Overall, expect inexpensive COTS vendors to rapidly grow their share of unit shipments, creating a wave of transition from pricy proprietary platforms.
(Image source: Supermicro)
Pure Storage is clearly a leader in all-flash arrays. Though a startup, the company has achieved a healthy market share and is a leader in innovation. 3D NAND flash should impact Pure's price/capacity and raw capacity numbers later in 2017.
The all-flash array market is a competitive area and other players will keep the pressure on Pure, such as Dell Tech and NetApp, along with startups Tegile and Kaminario.
(Image source: Pure Storage)
Red Hat aims to do for storage what it did for Linux and make open source code the mainstream solution. Ceph is taking over the OpenStack object role from the Swift project, while Red Hat also has a strong position in scale-out file systems, too. That’s a powerful combination, especially with the latest Ceph tuned for SSD performance and RDMA connectivity.
Scality, though a fee-per-license product, is doing well, with OEM agreements with several major OEMs and a leading position in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for object storage. Red Hat and Scality have very different business models, but their models are likely to converge as the underlying hardware commoditizes in the next year or two, until both are available on any COTS platform.
IBM’s Cleversafe technology is innovative and has a strong roadmap. It is currently a proprietary solution installed on IBM hardware and cloud platforms, but IBM is heading towards a hardware-free business, at least with COTS gear, so a stand-alone software solution might make sense in the future.
(Image source: Red Hat)
There are currently two front-runners in the connectivity stakes for the next-generation data center. Mellanox continues to be a powerhouse of innovation, with a strong roadmap on top of top-performing RDMA Ethernet chips and adapters, as well as essentially owning InfiniBand. This year, Mellanox plans to offer 100 GbE with RDMA and sample 200 GbE products, too. For a storage industry facing 10 gigabyte-per-second SSDs next year, this will be a godsend.
(Image source: Mellanox)
Intel is the other interesting player in the storage connectivity space, not so much for Ethernet or InfiniBand as for its intention to bring its proprietary Omni-Path network fabric to the high-performance storage market. This could be a tough sell, since the core electronics of these solutions have essentially the same speeds and feeds, but if Intel makes a case for a transition by limiting the new 3D XPoint (Optane) flash alternative to Omni-Path for example, it will upset the direction of the whole industry.
The performance end of the storage market is pushing for NVMe network access (NVME over Fabric) using Ethernet or perhaps Fibre Channel, with RDMA in either case. All the major players, both all-flash array vendors and traditional array suppliers, together with a host of startups are jumping on this bandwagon to supply storage appliances connected with RDMA fabrics.
(Image source: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corp)
Software-defined storage is the new kid on the block in the storage industry. The potential for virtualizing and unbundling almost all the code that currently runs on storage appliances is very attractive, especially in the hyper-converged arena. DataCore is a leading contender in the SDS space, offering parallel I/O together with data virtualization and claiming very high performance as a result.
Nexenta has a somewhat different focus, with its NexentaStor as a unified storage platform combining filer and block IO capability.
(Image source: DataCore)
Cloud storage vendors
The cloud storage market is teeming, a trend that's likely to continue this year. First, AWS is moving towards the hybrid cloud model by offering management of clouds as a service. With Microsoft Azure looking to create a bundled solution for select OEM platforms in 2017, the competition for how to build and manage storage for a hybrid cloud is definitely heating up.
Startup Primary Data is tackling the need for a single address space. It aims to unify a variety of storage types and vendors, including storage in the public cloud.
Companies such as Zadara Storage and Velostrata are tackling the hybrid cloud storage dilemma of where to best place data by creating cloud-based storage pools with very fast in-house caches and then renting space as Storage-as-a-Service. This is a new approach, but it might make data administration a lot easier and tidier, while moving costs from capital to operating expense. Time will tell!