Who Will Be At Top Of Storage World Next Decade?

July 22, 2017 – 1:09 pm

Who Will Be At Top Of Storage World Next Decade?

server storage I/O data infrastructure trends

Data Storage regardless of if hardware, legacy, new, emerging, cloud service or various software defined storage (SDS) approaches are all fundamental resource components of data infrastructures along with compute server, I/O networking as well as management tools, techniques, processes and procedures.

fundamental Data Infrastructure resource components
Fundamental Data Infrastructure resources

Data infrastructures include legacy along with software defined data infrastructures (SDDI), along with software defined data centers (SDDC), cloud and other environments to support expanding workloads more efficiently as well as effectively (e.g. boosting productivity).

Data Infrastructures and workloads
Data Infrastructure and other IT Layers (stacks and altitude levels)

Various data infrastructures resource components spanning server, storage, I/O networks, tools along with hardware, software, services get defined as well as composed into solutions or services which may in turn be further aggregated into more extensive higher altitude offerings (e.g. further up the stack).

IT and Data Infrastructure Stack Layers
Various IT and Data Infrastructure Stack Layers (Altitude Levels)

Focus on Data Storage Present and Future Predictions

Drew Robb (@Robbdrew) has a good piece over at Enterprise Storage Forum looking at the past, present and future of who will rule the data storage world that includes several perspective predictions comments from myself as well as others. Some of the perspectives and predictions by others are more generic and technology trend and buzzword bingo focus which should not be a surprise. For example including the usual performance, Cloud and Object Storage, DPDK, RDMA/RoCE, Software-Defined, NVM/Flash/SSD, CI/HCI, NVMe among others.

Here are some excerpts from Drews piece along with my perspective and prediction comments of who may rule the data storage roost in a decade:

Amazon Web Services (AWS) – AWS includes cloud and object storage in the form of S3. However, there is more to storage than object and S3 with AWS also having Elastic File Services (EFS), Elastic Block Storage (EBS), database, message queue and on-instance storage, among others. for traditional, emerging and storage for the Internet of Things (IoT).

It is difficult to think of AWS not being a major player in a decade unless they totally screw up their execution in the future. Granted, some of their competitors might be working overtime putting pins and needles into Voodoo Dolls (perhaps bought via Amazon.com) while wishing for the demise of Amazon Web Services, just saying.

Voodoo Dolls via Amazon.com
Voodoo Dolls and image via Amazon.com

Of course, Amazon and AWS could follow the likes of Sears (e.g. some may remember their catalog) and ignore the future ending up on the where are they now list. While talking about Amazon and AWS, one will have to wonder where Wall Mart will end up in a decade with or without a cloud of their own?

Microsoft – With Windows, Hyper-V and Azure (including Azure Stack), if there is any company in the industry outside of AWS or VMware that has quietly expanded its reach and positioning into storage, it is Microsoft, said Schulz.

Microsoft IMHO has many offerings and capabilities across different dimensions as well as playing fields. There is the installed base of Windows Servers (and desktops) that have the ability to leverage Software Defined Storage including Storage Spaces Direct (S2D), ReFS, cache and tiering among other features. In some ways I’m surprised by the number of people in the industry who are not aware of Microsoft’s capabilities from S2D and the ability to configure CI as well as HCI (Hyper Converged Infrastructure) deployments, or of Hyper-V abilities, Azure Stack to Azure among others. On the other hand, I run into Microsoft people who are not aware of the full portfolio offerings or are just focused on Azure. Needless to say, there is a lot in the Microsoft storage related portfolio as well as bigger broader data infrastructure offerings.

NetApp – Schulz thinks NetApp has the staying power to stay among the leading lights of data storage. Assuming it remains as a freestanding company and does not get acquired, he said, NetApp has the potential of expanding its portfolio with some new acquisitions. “NetApp can continue their transformation from a company with a strong focus on selling one or two products to learning how to sell the complete portfolio with diversity,” said Schulz.

NetApp has been around and survived up to now including via various acquisitions, some of which have had mixed results vs. others. However assuming NetApp can continue to reinvent themselves, focusing on selling the entire solution portfolio vs. focus on specific products, along with good execution and some more acquisitions, they have the potential for being a top player through the next decade.

Dell EMC – Dell EMC is another stalwart Schulz thinks will manage to stay on top. “Given their size and focus, Dell EMC should continue to grow, assuming execution goes well,” he said.

There are some who I hear are or have predicted the demise of Dell EMC, granted some of those predicted the demise of Dell and or EMC years ago as well. Top companies can and have faded away over time, and while it is possible Dell EMC could be added to the where are they now list in the future, my bet is that at least while Michael Dell is still involved, they will be a top player through the next decade, unless they mess up on execution.

Cloud and software defined storage data infrastructure
Various Data Infrastructures and Resources involving Data Storage

Huawei – Huawei is one of the emerging giants from China that are steadily gobbling up market share. It is now a top provider in many categories of storage, and its rapid ascendancy is unlikely to stop anytime soon. “Keep an eye on Huawei, particularly outside of the U.S. where they are starting to hit their stride,” said Schulz.

In the US, you have to look or pay attention to see or hear what Huawei is doing involving data storage, however that is different in other parts of the world. For example, I see and hear more about them in Europe than in the US. Will Huawei do more in the US in the future? Good question, keep an eye on them.

VMware – A decade ago, Storage Networking World (SNW) was by far the biggest event in data storage. Everyone who was anyone attended this twice yearly event. And then suddenly, it lost its luster. A new forum known as VMworld had emerged and took precedence. That was just one of the indicators of the disruption caused by VMware. And Schulz expects the company to continue to be a major force in storage. “VMware will remain a dominant player, expanding its role with software-defined storage,” said Schulz.

VMware has a dominant role in data storage not just because of the relationship with Dell EMC, or because of VSAN which continues to gain in popularity, or the soon to be released VMware on AWS solution options among others. Sure all of those matters, however, keep in mind that VMware solutions also tie into and work with other legacies as well as software-defined storage solution, services as well as tools spanning block, file, object for virtual machines as well as containers.

"Someday soon, people are going to wake up like they did with VMware and AWS," said Schulz. "That’s when they will be asking ‘When did Microsoft get into storage like this in such a big way.’"

What the above means is that some environments may not be paying attention to what AWS, Microsoft, VMware among others are doing, perhaps discounting them as the old or existing while focusing on new, emerging what ever is trendy in the news this week. On the other hand, some environments may see the solution offerings from those mentioned as not relevant to their specific needs, or capable of scaling to their requirements.

Keep in mind that it was not that long ago, just a few years that VMware entered the market with what by today’s standard (e.g. VSAN and others) was a relatively small virtual storage appliance offering, not to mention many people discounted and ignored VMware as a practical storage solution provider. Things and technology change, not to mention there are different needs and solution requirements for various environments. While a solution may not be applicable today, give it some time, keep an eye on them to avoid being surprised asking the question, how and when did a particular vendor get into storage in such a big way.

Is Future Data Storage World All Cloud?

Perhaps someday everything involving data storage will be in or part of the cloud.

Does this mean everything is going to the cloud, or at least in the next ten years? IMHO the simple answer is no, even though I see more workloads, applications, and data residing in the cloud, there will also be an increase in hybrid deployments.

Note that those hybrids will span local and on-premises or on-site if you prefer, as well as across different clouds or service providers. Granted some environments are or will become all in on clouds, while others are or will become a hybrid or some variation. Also when it comes to clouds, do not be scared, be prepared. Also keep an eye on what is going on with containers, orchestration, management among other related areas involving persistent storage, a good example is Dell EMCcode RexRay among others.

Server Storage I/O resources
Various data storage focus areas along with data infrastructures.

What About Other Vendors, Solutions or Services?

In addition to those mentioned above, there are plenty of other existing, new and emerging vendors, solutions, and services to keep an eye on, look into, test and conduct a proof of concept (PoC) trial as part of being an informed data infrastructure and data storage shopper (or seller).

Keep in mind that component suppliers some of whom like Cisco also provides turnkey solutions that are also part of other vendors offerings (e.g. Dell EMC VxBlock, NetApp FlexPod among others), Broadcom (which includes Avago/LSI, Brocade Fibre Channel, among others), Intel (servers, I/O adapters, memory and SSDs), Mellanox, Micron, Samsung, Seagate and many others.

E8, Excelero, Elastifile (software defined storage), Enmotus (micro-tiering, read Server StorageIOlab report here), Everspin (persistent and storage class memories including NVDIMM), Hedvig (software defined storage), NooBaa, Nutanix, Pivot3, Rozo (software defined storage), WekaIO (scale out elastic software defined storage, read Server StorageIO report here).

Some other software defined management tools, services, solutions and components I’m keeping an eye on, exploring, digging deeper into (or plan to) include Blue Medora, Datadog, Dell EMCcode and RexRay docker container storage volume management, Google, HPE, IBM Bluemix Cloud aka IBM Softlayer, Kubernetes, Mangstor, OpenStack, Oracle, Retrospect, Rubrix, Quest, Starwind, Solarwinds, Storpool, Turbonomic, Virtuozzo (software defined storage) among many others

What about those not mentioned? Good question, some of those I have mentioned in earlier Server StorageIO Update newsletters, as well as many others mentioned in my new book "Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials" (CRC Press). Then there are those that once I hear something interesting from on a regular basis will get more frequent mentions as well. Of course, there is also a list to be done someday that is basically where are they now, e.g. those that have disappeared, or never lived up to their full hype and marketing (or technology) promises, let’s leave that for another day.

Additional learning experiences along with common questions (and answers), as well as tips can be found in Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials book.

Where To Learn More

Learn more about related technology, trends, tools, techniques, and tips with the following links.

Data Infrastructures and workloads
Data Infrastructures Resources (Servers, Storage, I/O Networks) enabling various services

Software Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials Book SDDC

What This All Means

It is safe to say that each new year will bring new trends, techniques, technologies, tools, features, functionality as well as solutions involving data storage as well as data infrastructures. This means a usual safe bet is to say that the current year is the most exciting and has the most new things than in the past when it comes to data infrastructures along with resources such as data storage. Keep in mind that there are many aspects to data infrastructures as well as storage all of which are evolving. Who Will Be At Top Of Storage World Next Decade? What say you?

Ok, nuff said (for now…).


Greg Schulz – Multi-year Microsoft MVP Cloud and Data Center Management, VMware vExpert (and vSAN). Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press), Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) and twitter @storageio. Watch for the spring 2017 release of his new book "Software-Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials" (CRC Press).

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