Top Storage Trends for 2015

SSD and all-flah array, SDS and converged infratructure
By Jean Jacques Maleval on 2015.01.07

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Since many years, we project that the worldwide capacity in storage will continue to increase drastically. The data deluge is not going to stop. The tsunami is pushed even further with cloud storage, appetite for mobile devices, big data, Internet of Things and video (4K, surveillance).

On the other side, we don't see this year coming real disruptive storage technologies like SSDs few years ago and most recently all-flash arrays. But it could happen as innovations in the industry never stopped since decades.

It will be probably more a question in 2015 of continuing trends especially with the first letter 'S' in storage being extensively used in two main recent technologies: SSD (Solid-State Storage) - including SSD subsystems - and SDS (Software-Defined Storage).

There are more and more a standard for the masses rather than an high-priced option.
Intelligence is further added into controllers to extend the life of chips, and interfaces to increase the transfer rates, surpassing 1GB/s, especially with PCIe, the fastest one.
Capacity is now beating HDDs in the same 2.5-inch form factor with 1TB being very popular this year. Intel expects 10TB into enterprise units by 2018 and SanDisk 16TB in 2016. Triple-Level-Cell (TLC) flash will become mature in 2015.
Following more dense flash chip technologies, prices will decrease faster than HDDs.
There will consolidation in this industry full of 134 SSD makers in the world, to be compared to only 3 for HDDs.
With USB keys reaching 512GB in 2015 and with fast USB 3.0, we may now imagine smaller notebooks without any internal storage devices and the possibility to easily change the key to evolve in capacity.

Flash Arrays
We are waiting for even faster acceleration than last year with systems of higher capacities and under $1/GB, then prices starting under $25,000 with de-dupe and compression integrated as well as enterprise functionalities.
They will slowly replace traditional storage arrays based on HDDs and not only for mission-critical applications like SQL, MS Exchange, Oracle and SAP databases. For Gartner, 20% of traditional high-end storage arrays will be replaced by dedicated solid-state arrays by 2019.
The future is more in favor of all-flash rather than hybrid arrays integrating SSDs and HDDs.
Consequently wait for more new actors (47 up to now) in all-flash subsystems.

Software-defined storage is the new hype for an old idea to build enterprise storage architecture based on standard hardware and low-cost interfaces, and also to manage heterogeneous, multi-vendor storage environments.
IDC wrote that, in 3Q14, "up 39.4% year over year, the software-defined storage platforms market is benefiting from an increased desire to control costs by utilizing commodity hardware when building storage systems."
Open-source initiatives such as GlusterFS, Inktank Ceph Enterprise, and SwiftStack for OpenStack for object storage interest a lot of enterprises that need to educate people to handle this new approach.
Look also at a new technology that could impact virtualization and storage: Docker.

Dispersed object storage
Rather than traditional RAIDs and tiering, several private start-ups have also conceived software-defined storage to manage a scalable network of commodity servers where the same data are dispersed on several disks.

Infrastructure Convergence
About all vendors speaks about hyper-converged systems but converged systems is good enough. The idea, first launched by big storage companies (EMC, NetApp) with partners for high-end systems costing several millions of dollars, is to offer a complete infrastructure solution with compute, storage, network and software rather than traditional storage arrays. The end user avoids the difficult integration and has just one vendor for the configuration and the service. More offerings at lower costs will be the trend in 2015 with no more big monolithic storage systems but scale out architecture able to handle abrupt changes in enterprises.
By 2016, IDC predicts that hyperscale data centers will house more than 50% of raw compute capacity and 70% of raw storage capacity worldwide, becoming the primary consumer/adopters of new compute and storage technologies.

After being eliminated for backup, tape will have difficulties to be a first choice for archiving. LTO drives are too slow, too expensive and the capacity of the media (LTO-6 at 6.25TB compressed) is not exciting. With today's low-performance high-capacity HDDs at 6TB and more, these latter are going to be the media of choice for dynamically moving cold data to archives. Some experts even think that it may be SSDs in the future ...

After 6TB and 8TB, the first 10TB HDDs will arrive this year in 3.5-inch form factor. The first ones filled of helium will come from HGST, and maybe later from Seagate based on SMR, the new technology to increase areal density. The next one, HAMR, is probably for 2016.
But big rival SSD is taking HDD market share. HDDs will progressively disappear in notebooks (in which Apple now only offers SSDs) and all smaller computing devices (subnotebooks, tablets, smartphones). HDD makers are trying to answer with hybrid HDDs (disk drives with flash cache), but they never were a big market and probably never will.
On the other side, HDDs are suffering for enterprise storage, once more against solid-state devices.
An interesting new concept is Seagate Kinetic with direct Ethernet connectivity rather than SAS and SATA for low cost storage on network, but integrators would prefer to have a second source to handle this kind of product. Will WD also does it?

2015 will be the year of the arrival of USB 3.1, an update USB 3.0 to 10Gbit/s, putting it on par with first-generation Thunderbolt. 16Gb FC is on the road as well as 12Gb SAS and NVM Express.

Prices of public online backup could approach $0 for unlimited storage, the service being paid by ads on the web site of the cloud provider because of the ferocious competition between big ones like Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, EMC Mozy and a lot of smaller ones behind them.
Here the main problem is the slow bandwidth of Internet, at an average of 4MB/s in the world according to Akamai. You can wait more than one night to transfer for the first time the content of your 1TB HDD. After that, it's acceptable with CDP software.
Increasing amounts of business and personal content are moving into cloud storage, more and more using using several cloud services, especially for backup, rather than expensive replication on another site.
Hybrid cloud storage will continue to be the trend with data stored in several places: at home on NAS, outside on a second NAS, and once more on public cloud.

"Data security dominated data recovery conversation in 2014," said Kroll Ontrack. But not for data recovery only and also in 2015, as well as for cloud or any places where data are stored, as hackers seem to be able to steal them anywhere they are  - even in your own bank - and when they want with sophisticated procedures.

Business Trends
Storage giants continue and will continue to suffer from the competition of more innovative smaller companies.
There were less financial founding rounds for storage start-ups and a    smaller number of mergers and acquisitions in 2014 compared to 2013.
We suspect these trends to pursue this year.