Solid-state drives and other technologies will be game changers for storage next year.
Predicting even the near future of storage is a pretty complex issue right now. For anyone who hasn’t noticed, we are in the middle of a storage revolution, with more change in the next year than any time since the RAID array nearly 40 years ago.
Many technology transitions are occurring, both in hardware and software. Some, such as hyperconverged systems, impact the very structure of the server box- networked storage array model we’ve grown used to over the last three decades.
The cloud is reshaping the data center, too, while SSDs are the tipping point in usurping HDD roles. With all of these changes together, storage buyers will get much more for their money, while finding that fewer servers or storage boxes are needed in tomorrow’s data center to get the work done.
With all these changes, storage revenue seems to be dropping, at least by IDC’s numbers, but there are some underlying trends which indicate storage is in fact much healthier, though not necessarily thriving, and that this trend will continue into 2017.
IDC shows 3Q revenues dropping for the storage segment by 3% year-over-year. A deeper dive shows that, while most traditional vendors such as Dell Technologies show drops in the 10% range, the ODM and other categories actually increased by 6 and 8% respectively. This masks the unit growth for these two categories, since they typically use a low-cost model that brings the price of kit into the 50% or less range compared with the typical traditional OEM.
This has been a pattern for the last couple of years and it reflects the “Linux-ization” of storage as COTS and standard drives at internet prices take over the storage base. This trend will accelerate in 2017, reinforced by the rise of software-defined storage and storage service software unbundled from proprietary solutions.
Continue on to find out more about storage trends that are poised to impact the data center next year.
SSDs take over the market
Another aspect of the storage revolution is that by 2017 we will see price parity between solid-state drives and 10K/15K RPM hard drives. With improved controllers, SSDs are delivering wear life comparable to hard drives already, with the advantages of speed, low power, and better reliability. These factors will rapidly increase the pace of HDD replacement, effectively putting enterprise hard drives into the history books.
As a senior executive from SanDisk told me, bulk SSDs are all about the price of flash. Demand is actually driving up flash die prices right now, but this is short-term trend caused partly by the switchover to the much denser 3D NAND technology, which will be the standard product in 2017. A great deal more wafer fab capacity is destined to come on line in 2017 and the combination of this and 3D NAND will causes prices to drop significantly.
By the end of 2017, high-capacity SATA SSDs will be within parity range of HDDs. This has a profound effect on server and appliance performance. Servers will do much more, especially when architectural changes to deliver terabyte-class close-in memory kick in, and with NVDIMM persistent memory effectively extending main memory to the 10 terabyte range. With the huge multiplier on transfer rates that these technologies bring, server counts will drop significantly for any given workload, while extra performance will support compression and deduplication, which greatly reduces raw capacity demands.
The impact of all these developments is a reduction in the number of storage appliances and SSDs sold. This will hold back unit and revenue growth for the storage business segment, even though effective capacity is booming due to big data trends and the start of the IoT race.
Really big SSDs
Samsung and others have announced roadmaps that will deliver up 100 TB 2.5 inch SSDs in 2017, while HDDs might reach 15 or 16 TB in a year or so. These SSDs are game changers. Irrespective of price, SSDs vastly reduce the number of drives needed, drastically cutting cluster costs and also supporting the trend of merging primary and bulk secondary storage into the same hyperconverged appliance.
We are entering an era where 10 gigabytes-per-second transfer rates will be standard for top-end SSDs. Manufacturers already are sampling products. These units further boost server performance and reduce the server count required.
Object storage gains traction
Overall, the move to object storage with its universal storage access model, spells the end of standalone filer and block-IO storage units. This won’t happen in 2017; the industry is too conservative for that, but the object storage will have an increasingly noticeable impact on older technology.
The leading open source object store – Ceph - will spiff up its software-defined storage credentials and become a very powerful and flexible universal storage solution in 2017. By adding faster SSDs and RDMA interfaces, Ceph is no longer just for cold storage and low-activity objects.
Commercial object stacks such as Caringo and Scality also will add features for universal storage. With these alternatives unbundled from proprietary hardware, COTS will get a massive boost in acceptance.
The M2 form factor
Just a faint blip on the horizon in 2016, the ultra-compact M2 drive form factor -- basically a small card with a PCIe/NVMe interface -- will take off in 2017, especially in the mobile/desktop space, where it is already pricing close to capacity 2.5 inch drives. We’ll see it move up into the server market as servers become much more compact. The fact that SSDs run cool means that with M2, we can put a lot of storage in a small space.
(Image source: Kingston Technology)
The storage performance cup runneth over. NVDIMMs speed up flash access by around 4x, which is enough to make DIMMs using flash act as memory extenders. Intel has promised even more performance with 3D X-Point (now Optane) at near-DRAM speeds. Unfortunately, first generation Optane isn’t much faster than flash, while a whole lot more in price. A second generation product is planned for mid-year, so life will get very interesting as in-memory systems bounce up into the tens of terabytes.
(Image: Netlist NVDIMM)
Hybrid cloud management
The gap between public and private cloud brings all sorts of data management and governance issues. Next year, we'll see a spate of software tools aimed at managing this issue, and cloud service providers such as AWS offering to manage at least a large part of the issue for tenants.
These tools will be fertile ground for storage admins eager to gain next-generation storage skills.
Software-defined storage and hyper-converged infrastructure
These are two technologies are intertwined. SDS will be hot in 2017. We’ve finally figured out what it is and the hype phase is almost over. The first real packages are arriving in the market and HCI is an ideal platform for implementation.
Data services are virtualized, while hardware is accessed at the lowest level possible, fitting the server/storage appliance approach very well indeed. This market section will remain very hot going into 2017. The current vendor base -- four large OEMs currently dominate the market -- will open up significantly as ODMs and “others” catch their stride and software vendors loosen up their relationships with integrators.
Tape is dead!
I couldn’t resist adding this one. With AWS catching up to Google and using drives for archiving, the cloud giant could be transitioning out of the tape business, and I suspect the rest of the industry will follow its lead.