Big Changes for Enterprise Storage
By Li Aiping, Strategy & Business Development Dept., Huawei IT Product Line
Billions of newly connected devices, plus applications, plus tens and hundreds of millions of new users are fueling a mega-trend in IT. As part of this phenomenon, many new technologies, including flash memory (flash) and Software-Defined Storage (SDS) have emerged to force a redefinition of the enterprise storage industry.
Flash Gains Popularity
With high performance and low latency, flash provides considerable support for improved performance in enterprise data storage and accelerated computing. Moreover, flash can be used in hybrid arrays, all-flash arrays, or PCIe flash cards connected to servers. Huawei expects additional form-factors to emerge. The advantages of flash are attracting well-established players and newcomers in the storage industry. Enterprise customers are especially interested in flash because the technology continues to become more affordable as it matures.
In 2008, flash was introduced into enterprise-class data centers and, since, has taken market share from Hard Disk Drives (HDD). For example, in 2013, the enterprise Solid-State Drive (SSD) sector gained a 44% increase in sales volume, reaching US$4.5 billion, a sales volume for HDD of US$8.9 billion. With SSD sales volume reaching more than half of HDD sales, the gap between the two markets has narrowed quickly. Ultimately, SSD is expected to replace most mission-critical 15,000 rpm Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) HDDs disks, and become the optimal choice for high-performance storage. SAS disks will not disappear, as they will continue to have capacity and price advantages over SSDs.
In 2013, a significant increase occurred in the variety of all-flash arrays. EMC, NetApp, IBM, HP, and Huawei, each added all-flash arrays to their product lines — developed in-house or through acquisition — in an effort to grab market share from new vendors, such as Pure Storage, Violin Memory, and Nimbus Data. According to Gartner’s report Competitive Landscape: Solid-State Arrays released on September 12, 2014, global sales revenue of all-flash storage arrays reached US$667 million in 2013, a sharp rise compared with US$237 million in 2012. Furthermore, there is no sign of slowed growth as sales volumes are expected to reach US$4.1 billion in 2018.
All-flash arrays are ideal in scenarios with high I/O frequencies as they are able to take advantage of a latency of less than one millisecond. Examples include: Virtual Desktop Infrastructures (VDIs), in-memory database applications (e.g. SAP HANA), real-time analytics (risk management and fraud detection), genomics, and facial recognition.
Within the last few years, all-flash arrays have focused on accomplishing two key objectives: 1) High performance, low latency, and high density; and 2) Rich management functions comparable to the features of traditional storage systems.
In addition, some storage vendors are producing all-flash versions of traditional machines — which are optimal for customers who need high-performance and low-latency in addition to enterprise-class reliability and state-of-the-art management.
SDS Grows in Popularity
In 2012, the concept of Software-Defined Storage (SDS) emerged. By 2013, global storage vendors began to promote and launch SDS-related products or indicated that they had been exploring and developing the technology. Owing to different market goals, vendors presented a variety of different meanings, however, by the first half of 2014, the SDS concept had become clear enough to be segmented into three main categories:
•Storage resource pools with on-demand provisioning: Applied to large-sized enterprises and Service Providers (SPs), storage resource management has evolved in ways similar to server virtualization, i.e. from virtualization to abstraction to automation. Storage vendors have long supported storage virtualization or heterogeneous storage device management. Formerly stand-alone devices, storage can now involve a policy management server separate from the storage hardware itself.
•Server SAN: Storage management software running on commercial servers, sold with or without hardware, indicates a push in integration between storage and computing. The Server Storage-Area Network (SAN) segment became very active in 2014, and will continue to impact traditional storage products in the mid-range and low-end markets.
•Software solution for traditional storage: The pure software version of traditional storage systems will run on virtual machines and in the public cloud, and launched officially in 2015. This type of SDS product aims to meet contemporary requirements while allowing traditional vendors to protect their existing market share from the public cloud by providing agile data migration between the public and private clouds.
Compared with traditional storage systems such as HDD, SDS solutions feature elasticity, scalability, and ease of use; and, although the above segmentation helps differentiate design elements, some products overlap more categories while others will fit into a single description. Transforming device-based storage technology into an SDS platform portends a considerable engineering effort that will not be accomplished overnight.
Storage Begins Cloud-based Development
Unlike flash and SDS technologies that involve changes in storage architectures, cloud-enabled storage involves changes in deployment modes that build support for the cloud in the following three ways:
•Storage support for cloud applications: Storage vendors provide products with massive scale-out capabilities for enterprise customers to build private clouds. This type of private cloud is similar to the public cloud in terms of scale, economic benefits, and eases of use, but excels in terms of security, flexibility, and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
•Private clouds managing public clouds: An increasingly popular deployment mode is to deploy public cloud computing resources and private cloud storage resources. Enterprises benefit from the scalability of public clouds and, under private cloud-issued policies, ensure security and standards compliance with strict data control.
•Data migration with cloud gateways: Although enterprise cloud gateways between public and private clouds are available from numerous service providers, they often provide only the most simplistic functions for Tier 2 and Tier 3 migration operations. The trend is to embed cloud access capacities throughout the enterprise storage layer.
Cloud-enabled storage is a key factor behind the cloud computing transformation. Early adopters, strategic thinkers, now able to cite improved efficiency and cost-benefit metrics, are only the first wave of an expected, massive sea change.
The storage industry is undergoing the most dramatic transformation in 30 years, from HDD to SSD, from hardware to software services, and from private to hybrid clouds. The integration of computing and storage resources will continue to present opportunities and challenges. The companies that take advantage of these opportunities and accept these challenges will become dominate players in the new frontier of the enterprise storage market.