Find out what technologies and trends will cut enterprise storage costs.
A revolution is hitting storage today. From software all the way down to the drives themselves, storage is getting a much-needed makeover. While rapid change is challenging to keep up with, there are opportunities to do old tasks in a new way and save quite a bit of cash in the process.
The solid-state drive essentially triggered the storage revolution, with the idea that a small number of SSDs could outperform large array boxes with hundreds of hard drives. That’s changing the industry and putting pressure on the hard drive market. High-capacity SSDs now are 50% larger than the biggest HDD and there is plenty of growth to come.
SSD prices have already dipped below enterprise hard drive prices (Dell sells a 1 TB drive for $300) and Google has blasted the myth that expensive SSDs are needed for servers. So, for all but the extreme performance boxes where NVMe is appropriate, the SATA SSD is adequate for the job.
This leads us to commodity white boxes and low-cost storage appliances. We will see a flood of these units this year, recognizing a market that now accepts COTS hardware as a low-risk, low-cost investment. Of course, this wouldn’t happen without software, but high-quality stacks such as Ceph handle that part of the equation well. We are also moving to better automation. Software-defined infrastructure will automate management of networks and storage, making hybrid clouds -- another hot technology trend this year -- much easier to implement.
In the latter part of the year, we’ll see a frenzy of activity around non-volatile DIMMs. Already incorporated by the major server suppliers, NVDIMMs promise a radical readjustment of server operation, which will accelerate when Intel delivers near-DRAM speed X-Point memory in NVDIMM form. The impact on in-memory database performance is dramatic, so expect products from Oracle and others to hit the market later in the year.
Overall, the results of the storage revolution should encourage innovation, make storage agile and, most importantly, save enterprises a lot of money.
SSDs have been with us for a while, but pressure to lower prices and increase capacity have given us 3D NAND. The idea is simple: Just stack more circuits on each other and then stack the dies. We are now up to 48 layers and 64 is in sight, with prices declining as a result.
3D NAND production allows the use of higher yielding production nodes, with bigger flash cells. This improves write durability tremendously, even for MLC and TLC flash, improving both cost and capacity.
The next trend also is capacity related. Flash brought us a new tiering concept, with all-flash arrays (AFAs) replacing enterprise hard drive arrays in SANs. Almost all of these AFAs have compression software designed for post-processing writes to save as much as 80% of the raw space used by an object. Compression not only reduces the amount of AFA to be bought, it also allows secondary HDD storage to be faster, much smaller, and cheaper.
The third hot trend is an unusual one, insofar as it’s a change to DRAM. Non-volatile DIMMs are here to stay and may end up as the most radical change in how computers work in many years. The idea that main memory now is persistent and very large is a radical shift for database operations, as an example, and really changes the meaning of “in-memory.” Later this year, Intel and Micron will deliver their 3D X-Point storage technology, which will arrive both as SSDs and NVDIMMs. This promises another massive jump in performance for a server using the new tech, which reduces the total number of servers you need to buy.
The fourth hot storage trend is in networking. Ethernet is like a fireworks display producing lots of oohs and ahs. We have 25/100 GbE moving quickly to market to help out all those IO-starved virtual instances. RDMA over Ethernet will reduce overhead and latency. Mellanox has already announced 200 gigabit/second silicon with RDMA. Coupled with software-defined infrastructure, we are looking at much more for less money; that’s a winning formula, with overall performance boosts offsetting server and storage buys.
(Image: Danil Melekhin/iStockphoto)
Software-defined infrastructure is a consequence of the cloud approach. It allows us to virtualize storage software services, automate orchestration of the configuration, and since the storage software stack becomes hardware agnostic and now runs in the server cloud, reduce the cost of switch and storage hardware. Proprietary hardware becomes a thing of the past, as I'll explain on the next slide.
The commoditization of hardware also is a result of a shift to the cloud model. This gives us low-cost “white-box” storage, with inexpensive appliances and drives bought from distribution. While the white-box trend increase hardware support slightly, the standardized interfaces in the COTS world remove most of the risk.
White boxes come from vendors that deliver huge quantities to the big cloud service providers. Some designs are based on the Open Compute Project’s templates. These low-cost designs follow an approach that the Facebooks and Googles of the world have taken, so they're proven. SuperMicro is one of the better known players in this space.
The cost of cloud storage -- already the repository of choice for archives and backups -- has dropped dramatically over the years. A hybrid cloud is where an in-house cloud made possible with inexpensive white-box hardware and OpenStack software is linked to public clouds. This allows “cloudbursting:” using the public cloud to top off capacity under peak loads. The aim is to make the interface between the segments invisible.
Hybrid cloud will drive a shift to Ethernet storage and a higher percentage of object stores, both of which -- with white boxes -- will be cheaper and more versatile than traditional SAN gear.
COTS storage software
Our final cost-cutting storage trend is COTS storage software. With Red Hat and SanDisk cooperating to make Ceph SSD friendly and much faster, that already popular solution is likely to really take off as the software stack of choice for white-box appliances. Competitor Scality offers its RING object code through server vendors, which provides plenty of options. With others entering the space, platform-agnostic software promises to make white-box solutions really zing in 2016.