21? All bets are off…

Editorial Type: Feature Date: 02-2021 Views: 71 Tags: Storage, Strategy, Infrastructure, Flash, Data Centre, Cloud, WD, Toshiba , StorMagic, Pure Storage, Scality PDF Version:
Our annual industry roundtable yielded a surprisingly varied - and occasionally contentious - range of topics predicted to be on everyone's minds in the coming year when it comes to the data storage sector

Speaking to vendors and experts from right across our sector, it is no surprise that a simple question like 'What do you see as being the critical storage considerations for 2021?' can bring out a wide variety of responses. One thing that almost everyone agreed on was the continuing need for IT infrastructure to adapt to an increasingly remote workforce for the foreseeable future.

Koorosh Khashayar of iland predicts some fairly extreme and long term changes: "In 2021 the 'new norm' will become the 'next norm', and by that I mean we will see the permanent change to remote employees. A number of organisations are already moving towards this model, where they are questioning the need to go into an office. They have seen that remote working has worked well for the past nine months, without a drop off in productivity, so I predict an increase in remote scenarios and satellite offices going into 2021. I also think it's going to further solidify the need for a solid infrastructure so that employees can continue connecting and contributing."

SnapLogic's Mark Gibbs largely agrees: "Remote work is here to stay. The pandemic forced large parts of the workforce to work remotely. Many businesses scrambled to accommodate a remote workforce, but once they overcame the initial challenges, they started to see the benefits from both a company and a social perspective. Companies can save OpEx by reducing their physical footprint needed in centralised office spaces."

There appears to be a general consensus that the pandemic has forced many organisations to accelerate their modernisation/transformation initiatives. Companies no longer had a choice about investing in automation, collaboration, and crucially moving to the cloud and/or the edge. Rainer Kaese of Toshiba considers what this will mean for manufacturers of HDD and SSD products: "As we go into 2021, dramatically heightened data access activity is going to start being witnessed at the edge, as well as at the core. Thanks to the huge production volumes supported, coupled with characteristically attractive price points plus ongoing innovations, hard disk drives are certain to continue to have an important role to play. Although solid state drives seem to get the vast majority of media attention, the value of HDDs should never be underestimated - especially as data storage demands are getting more and more intense."


"With emerging technologies such as 5G and Internet of Things relying heavily on the fast transmission of data at huge scales, the storage industry is no longer talking in petabytes or terabytes; instead, it's starting to focus on zettabytes (1bn TB). In 2021 and beyond, we can expect enterprises to turn to zoned storage to help manage the considerable levels of data being produced." - Davide Villa, Western Digital

MOVING FASTER
Kaese goes on: "Changes to working culture over the last 9 months, with a much greater percentage of the population now working from home with all-digital connections, has accelerated the migration to cloud-based services. This is putting more strain on existing data centre infrastructure. At the same time, the landscape supporting all this activity is changing too. Cloud-based IT, often located in colocation sites, is set to become increasingly commonplace, enabling the requirements of numerous customers to be attended to using shared resources. This sets new challenges when it comes to storage technology that forms the foundation of data centre operations - requiring optimised solutions that match the access pattern as well as performance and reliability requirements."

And just as we start to get used to the concept of the edge, along comes 'fog', explains John Day of Commvault: "From an edge computing point of view, we are already seeing faster, cheaper devices and storage. In 2021, we're going to see the fog layer - edge computing at the manufacturing site holding the short-term data, and cloud being the long-term storage solution. There will be so much more data that will need protecting, as more digital manufacturing processes are adopted, especially as storage solutions, such as Flash, get cheaper, making this infrastructure more cost-effective."

Emma Kendrew of Accenture expands on the way that edge computing is moving into the real world: "The edge is a huge emerging shift in infrastructure that complements the cloud by adding on an information technology layer which is distributed out to every nook and cranny of the world. Combined with 5G and AI, edge has the potential to help businesses reimagine applications to create groundbreaking results - something we expect to see more and more over the next year. Consider the impact of neuromorphic computing on edge AI to improve response times and battery life. This technology works in several ways that are optimal for real-time autonomous edge solutions, which we've already seen in demonstrations and preliminary research conducted with Intel's neuromorphic hardware."


"As harsh, demanding environments have more data compute and storage needs, edge technology needs to ruggedise. Companies will begin piecemealing together HCI solutions and ruggedised routers and SSDs to withstand environments that general purpose computing architectures weren't designed for. Spinning hard drives are severely outdated at this point. Flash drives are emerging as the superior option for IT professionals architecting new solutions in the data centre or at the edge due to their performance and reliability."- Bruce Kornfeld, StorMagic

A HARDER EDGE
So as edge becomes more mainstream, are suppliers ready to supply kit that will work outside of the cossetted environment of the traditional data centre? Bruce Kornfeld of StorMagic predicts that the edge needs to become more 'ruggedised': "As harsh, demanding environments have more data compute and storage needs, edge technology needs to ruggedise. Companies will begin piecemealing together HCI solutions and ruggedised routers and SSDs to withstand environments that general purpose computing architectures weren't designed for."

Kornfeld also foresees hard times ahead for hard drives: "Spinning hard drives are severely outdated at this point. Flash drives are emerging as the superior option for IT professionals architecting new solutions in the data centre or at the edge due to their performance and reliability."

Scality's Paul Speciale sees flash being increasingly embraced for high capacity storage requirements: "A new generation of high-density flash storage will become widely available in 2021. The optimal combination of high performance and lower prices makes it suitable for scale-out high-capacity file and object storage. Until now, flash storage has been deployed in smaller capacity applications and latency-sensitive use cases, while high-density spinning disk has been the preferred storage medium for large volumes of data (for example, media files or medical images). With the introduction of lower-cost, higher-density flash media in 2021, these use cases will adopt capacity-optimised solutions that maximise these benefits in density, scale and agility for multiple workloads."


"In 2021, it will become clear that as-a-service models have to re-justify their value every single day, because it is so easy to sign up for a service and then discontinue it in favour of a different one if it doesn't meet your needs. In the hierarchy of awesome customer experience: it's good to be responsive, it's better to be proactive and let a customer know that there's a problem, and it's even better to let a customer know there was a problem and you have already fixed it."- Patrick Smith, Pure Storage

SELF-CONTAINED
The double whammy of cloud native apps and containerisation will combine to deliver some of the biggest changes over the next year, according to several of our panellists.

"Containers and Kubernetes are the one-two punch of enterprise efficiency - reinventing how we build and run applications," says Patrick Smith of Pure Storage. "By 2025, Gartner projects that 85% of global businesses will be running containers in production, up from 35% in 2019. But for digital leaders in the enterprise, these essential building blocks of the microservices that enable organisations to be more agile while still building highly reliable applications, are already mainstream.

Agility and resilience are key benefits of microservice architectures and digital native powerhouses like Netflix understood the competitive advantages of microservices early on. In 2021, look for containers and Kubernetes to remain central to enterprises launching and expanding their long-planned digital transformation projects. In fact, containers will be so mainstream that it will not be the technology that is interesting any more - but instead the new applications and digital touchpoints that CIOs will be talking about. They'll understand that their teams have a toolkit of solutions that will allow them to do things at speed and velocity that they could have only dreamed of five or 10 years ago - like leveraging streaming data to deliver real-time personalisation to 10 million customers worldwide."

Scality's CTO, Giorgio Regni, summed it up: "The accelerated growth of next-generation cloud-native digital apps and services will define new competitive requirements in every industry. Cloud native and containers are rapidly turning into the new blueprint for application development and underlying cloud infrastructure services. For the storage industry, the container trend represents a significant inflection point that will transform deployment architectures leveraging Kubernetes and container-native storage APIs. Its impact will be comparable to that of server virtualisation in the 2000s and cloud computing in the 2010s."

According to Thomas LaRock of SolarWinds, it is important to remember that while a business may run on its applications, its applications run on data: "Since 2006, the industry has been referring to data as the new oil. It's what gives businesses a competitive advantage, making the need to protect and optimise its performance of the utmost importance to give the highest value back to the business. Visibility is critical because database performance is often where the experience goes wrong. In 2021, it's time to double down on database performance management. Ensuring your database performance in the cloud is at least as good as it is in your data centre is critical as IT organisations 'lift and shift' more workloads to the cloud - something that's been accelerating since the workforce went remote. Otherwise, the digital transformation you expect to deliver for your business can suffer, bringing your business down with it. Because the database is critical to infrastructure and application performance, IT pros and business leaders have to strike the right balance for their organisation's growth, and grapple with making their data perform its best, regardless of where it resides. And while many look at either the applications, or the infrastructure supporting them, the data management itself is a top priority."

AT YOUR SERVICE
One idea that was discussed by several of our experts was the Storage-as-a-Service concept. Patrick Smith of Pure Storage again: "In 2021, it will become clear that as-a-service models have to re-justify their value every single day, because it is so easy to sign up for a service and then discontinue it in favour of a different one if it doesn't meet your needs. This means that customer service needs to formally extend beyond the point of purchase and become a more holistic customer experience. In the hierarchy of awesome customer experience: it's good to be responsive, it's better to be proactive and let a customer know that there's a problem, and it's even better to let a customer know there was a problem and you have already fixed it.

The next year will bring greater clarity around the differences between 'products on subscription' (i.e. lease) offerings and true 'as-a-Service' solutions, which are about buying an outcome (i.e. Service Level Agreements) and having a third-party deliver it. With as-a-Service, you should be able to: start small, grow over time, and have complete transparency over pricing and related KPIs. The customer should never feel like they've bought something and now they are on their own - or locked into a service that offers little benefit compared to a traditional capital purchase."

This focus on managing IT investments is touched on again by Sascha Giese of SolarWinds "According to Gartner, the abatement of revenue uncertainty in late 2020 will allow for the resurgence of more predictable IT spending by CIOs, but social distancing will continue through 2021, capping office capacity at 40%. IT teams will need to get even more creative with how they're spending their money, with IT spending expected to decrease. Though organisations don't need to put digital transformation on pause, there will be pressure for them to do more with less, leading them to focus on strengthening the tech already in place to optimise businesses."

IN THE ZONE
Western Digital's Davide Villa (pictured above) predicts that we are heading into the 'Zettabyte Age', which will require a whole new approach that he calls 'zoned storage': "With emerging technologies such as 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) relying heavily on the fast transmission of data at huge scales, the storage industry is no longer talking in petabytes or terabytes; instead, it's starting to focus on zettabytes (1bn TB). In 2021 and beyond, we can expect enterprises to turn to zoned storage to help manage the considerable levels of data being produced. Zoned storage HDDs (SMR) and SSDs (ZNS) require the host to cooperate in efficiently organising and placing the data into zones. With a unified software framework, data can be intelligently placed on both SMR HDDs and ZNS SSDs to increase storage capacity, lower Total Cost of Ownership and improve Quality of Service. This means data centre and cloud providers can cost-effectively scale storage for the zettabyte age. In 2021, zoned storage, including SMR HDDs and ZNS SSDs, is set to revolutionise storage and system architectures for next-generation heterogeneous computing systems."


"Cloud-based IT, often located in co-location sites, is set to become increasingly commonplace, enabling the requirements of numerous customers to be attended to using shared resources. This sets new challenges when it comes to storage technology that forms the foundation of data centre operations - requiring optimised solutions that match the access pattern as well as performance and reliability requirements."- Rainer Kaese, Toshiba

SOME LIKE IT HOT
Storage tiering, perceived for some time as a cost-saver for organisations, is in danger of becoming 'a performance-killer', according to Curtis Anderson of Panasas: "Forward-looking enterprises are moving to adopt HPC compute and storage solutions because their legacy storage architectures cannot keep up with the extreme storage performance needed to manage the growing deluge of highly valuable data they're accumulating. As enterprises evaluate their options, the historic stability and cost issues of legacy HPC storage are being exposed. Conventional wisdom says that to get high-performance storage without paying high prices you should use 'tiering', which is marrying a small high-performance storage subsystem with a more cost-effective layer of storage where all the 'cold' data is stored.

"However, here's where conventional wisdom is wrong. AI and ML are just the start of a trend where all the data an enterprise has accumulated can be mined for value. That makes all data 'hot', and thus tiering has changed from a cost-saver to a performance-killing bottleneck. What's needed is an infrastructure where all the storage hardware you buy contributes to the performance you need. A single-tier HPC-class storage solution using commodity platforms to manage data that is 'all hot, all the time' meets that goal. In an 'all hot' data storage environment, enterprises have instant access to primary data and can explore the potentially high value of data that was previously labelled 'cold' and relegated to slow and difficult to access archive storage tiers."

And so the conversation returns again to the core concept of the importance of data, wherever it is held, and however it is being accessed. Let's leave the last words on the topic to Accenture's Emma Kendrew: "Looking ahead to 2021, putting data on cloud will be a big focus. Changes forced by COVID-19 mean that businesses are looking at cloud strategies for optimisation and innovation, often with a 'lift and shift' model, multispeed analytics and applying AI to data. These changes driving the future of data architecture are due to the variety of consumption patterns that need to be supported. Instead of specific data pipelines for specific services, companies will make more efforts to build data hubs for integrated, consistent data services that no longer operate in siloes. Finally, using machine learning to curate and wrangle data is becoming a fast reality to deliver business insights. Data has been enabling machine learning and AI in recent years. Now, we are working with clients to answer the questions: Can machine learning and AI auto-discover, auto-classify and auto-label my data? The idea is to create an autonomous environment where data manages and fixes itself and becomes self-healing. This will free up precious talent resources to focus on innovations that drive business value."