Every year towards the end of December there are numerous prediction blogs, papers, articles published.   Flash and SSD vendors predict that this medium will overtake HDD demands and that everyone will want and need flash.  Tape vendors tout the return of market demand for tape, and cloud service providers and enablers will show numbers that say everyone will be using cloud.  It is incredibly convenient when  the product you are selling is in line with industry trends.

Of course those of us who are in the field talking to customers, it is not so simple or black and white.  There are definitely movements to adopting cloud models, primarily in the form of software as a service.  It is actually more challenging to find an email archiving solution that will be housed on premise instead of as a service.  There is also great interest in leveraging public cloud services around individual file sharing, office applications, email in general, and other specific applications in each vertical.  All these models make economic and operational sense.  Let’s remember that the reason cloud is attractive is not because we all want to be in the cloud, but because it offers some economic or operational incentive.

So what are my predictions?  I don’t like to predict but I can share what other trends I am seeing and which I believe will continue to gain momentum in the coming year:

  • Adoption of alternative hypervisors for virtualization in the data center.  We already see many organizations bringing in HyperV for VDI and other workloads, especially if the applications are Microsoft heavy.  Reasons are simple, the current version of HyperV is enterprise ready and it makes economic sense.  There is also interest in KVM, but that is more common in test and dev environments in research institutions where there is no need for the enterprise features and costs of VMware.
  • There is a level of distress that exists in regards to protecting data longer term.  Though backups continue to deliver operational protection of live data, there is now greater focus on addressing the need to store data long term, in some cases indefinitely, and still be able to perform backups.  Separating archiving function from backups has become a necessity for many organizations with large immutable data sets.  Figuring out what is the best way to achieve desired results has been challenging both from a business perspective as well as operations.  There are tape based and disk based archive solutions available, determining which one is the best fit is complicated.
  • Back to the cloud for a moment.  Most storage cloud offerings are based on either proprietary API or are accessed via S3, Swift, REST….Many enterprise applications and users are not equipped to speak these and require a translation layer.  This is where cloud gateways come in to play.  There have been a few on the market for the past four to five years but none have offered a fully vetted solution that addresses the variety of needs that exist.  Some vendors are well positioned to take advantage of the need, but they will have to align better their packaging and pricing models to gain a realestate.
  • In the storage world there is a war going on for the hearts and minds of the IT professionals.  It is between the various array vendors and hyperconverged system vendors, traditional, scale out, scale up, all Flash, hybrid, etc…..There is a race to the bottom on pricing for these systems and what differentiates one from the next is very specific and can’t be applied to the whole of the market.  In other words what one cares about may be irrelevant to another.  This war is going to get accelerated as use cases become more rigidly defined.  The addressable market is no longer all the data in the data center but only the applications that need the performance; everything else will go in purpose built system or the cloud ( private or public).  Does this mean that the addressable market will shrink?  Probably not.  The adoption of new paradigms is slow.  I think we will see the effects only in 2-3 years.

So which technologies will see a lot of attention?  I think we will see more on object addressable storage and gateways to object and cloud; adoption of NVMe SSD/flash in the host to accelerate performance of applications by reducing latency (where it matters); greater utilization of public cloud services for disaster recovery and business continuity; more options for interacting with your data through file synch and share applications.  The core of storage will not change much.  We will continue to see price pressures in the field and confusion among the end users trying to figure out why they should care and what difference does it make.