Disruptive Storage Technologies

Over the last 15 years, the storage industry has primarily been dominated (market share) by six companies, EMC, NetApp, IBM, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), HP and Dell.  In 2013, these six companies made up approximately 85% of all storage sold in the United States.

The remaining 15% of the storage market is made up of all the other storage manufacturers.  Needless to say, it is a very crowded 15%.  For as many new products that are introduced into the market each year, just as many disappear.   However, a few of the very best have found ways to grow.  Innovators like Nimble Storage, Pure Storage, Tintri, Simplivity, Tegile and the like are most commonly referred to hybrid storage, all flash storage, or hyper-converged products.  All these technologies are considered disruptive storage technologies to what the Tier 1 storage providers have been offering.  These organizations are pushing known boundaries and finding new ways to innovate, store and protect data.

What is the biggest driver for their success?

In addition to being true innovators these companies manufacture products that are easy to implement, easy to use and affordable. These companies are doing things differently based on the ever-changing Information Technology eco-system.  These disruptive technologies have evolved to fit the changes in virtualization, utilize improvements in flash technology, feature faster CPUs with more cores, and feature new software/GUI innovations.  How?…  They have figured out, that by developing better software capable of running on commodity hardware, they can provide a better end-user experience at a drastically reduced cost.  Even with the use of commodity hardware, they still provide up to five 9’s of availability through redundancy in the infrastructure.

Nimble Storage Graphical User Interface

These companies are also providing new methods of data protection, replication, inline de-duplication, in-line compression, and encryption.  They allow tighter integration with virtualization hyper-visors and application software.  Because the innovation is in the software, these companies are able to more quickly improve capability and provide features to adapt to the changes in the technology eco-system.

How much did virtualization change the game?

Arguably the x86 server manufactures were blindsided by how much virtualization was going to affect their servers business.  At this point x86 servers have become utility devices, which are fairly inexpensive, when you look at 25-75 virtual guest servers are running on what used to be a physical box only a few short years ago.  These emerging storage technologies are starting to do the same thing.  It is possible that the legacy storage vendors could find themselves in the same position as the x86 server manufactures as more and more development goes into virtualization of storage and placing data on commodity infrastructure.

What does this mean for the future of storage technology?

Well, 12 years ago VMware was emerging as a disruptive technology.  Now VMWare is the standard for virtualization. VMWare could quickly become a disruptive technology again, with Virtual SAN (VSAN).   I predict over the next 5 years, we will see even more consolidation of storage vendors, as newer and better ways to store data are developed and the traditional SAN that we know today will be drastically different.  It is quite possible that Object Based Storage and the use of data protection via replicas will overtake the traditional and very antiquated RAID technology solutions and fundamentally changes how we store, manage, search and protect data.

Pure Storage vSphere Web Client

There will probably always be a need for the traditional storage methods, but as we have seen, that segment will continue to shrink as virtualization and storage innovation continue to change our IT landscape.

This article was written by Dave Larson.  Dave is a Sr. Solutions Architect for Freeit.

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