Flash Futures: What To Expect for Storage in 2014

Halloween has passed, the winter holidays are in full force, and we’ve got one thing on our minds: figuring out where the storage market is going in 2014. 2013 proved that SSD is way more than a flash in the pan – flash storage is here to stay, and it’s going to be bigger than ever. As the big vendors rush to play catch-up to innovative storage start-ups, here are the four big things we think the storage industry, and IT professionals, can expect in 2014.

1. Big Data and Real-Time Analytics: Fueling the Enterprise IT Fire.

Prediction: 2014 will be the start of ‘scale-out’ becoming the dominant architecture of the storage industry.

Big data analytics have already made waves in the business and IT world, by enabling companies to be more generally agile and attune to customer needs. Ultimately, effective big data analytics allow companies to make better business decisions. That’s why improving the functionality of these analytics – and the systems that manage these heavy loads of data efficiently – will be a top priority for organizations of all sizes in 2014. As enterprises begin to loop in these platforms and services as a core part of their infrastructure, even greater emphasis will be thrown not just toward real-time transaction processing, but also delivering business value.

With the barrage of data companies are tasked with managing (enterprises double their data volumes each year), companies need solutions that can scale with these volumes and avoid handcuffing their business. It also means that scale-out architecture will become a ‘must’ for all companies. In fact, ESG reports that by early 2015, 80 percent of storage revenue will come from scale-out products (a decided change in traditional revenue streams), with scale-out products will account for 75 percent of storage capacity.

2. All-Flash Goes Mainstream.

Prediction: All-flash arrays will make up at least 1/3 of the data center for tier-one companies and 35 percent of the total enterprise storage spend in 2014.

2012 and 2013 could easily be termed ‘the years of flash.’ Not only did massive numbers of companies adopt all-flash arrays, but we’ve also seen a swath of storage acquisitions and IPOs – XtremeIO and EMC, Whiptail and Cisco, while Violin Memory and FusionIO both filed for an IPO. It has become essential for the big players in the storage market to have an all-flash array in their arsenal.

But despite the rapid adoption, ‘all-flash’ has maintained a reputation as an approach reserved for CIOs looking to pay top dollar for their storage systems. That will change in 2014. As SSDs become more commonplace and pricing drops, we expect adoption of solid-state as a primary storage option will rise accordingly – across all market segments. We’re also expecting to see the broad adoption of OLAP and OLTP, and the virtualization of both (which means we’re moving on from just talking about VDI).

3. Software-Defined (Everything) Moves from Buzzword to Reality.

Prediction: 2014 will be the year of software-defined everything (SDx).

We’ve had plenty of reasons to talk about software-defined storage this year. And just like big data, and the cloud, both of which have crossed over from hype to essentials of enterprise infrastructures, we expect ‘software-defined’ to make that same leap.

In 2014, this conversation will expand far beyond storage. Specifically, software-defined infrastructures – and a customer base that’s trained to understand its benefits (lower costs, consolidation opportunities, and simplicity) – will take shape. The software-defined world will be significantly more tangible (not to mention more agile and elastic), made up of hardware agnostic non-proprietary solutions.

4.  It’s the TCO, Obviously.

Prediction: TCO becomes the primary determinant in storage system purchases.

The level of customer awareness surrounding total cost of ownership (TCO) has expanded greatly in recent years. Customers have become much more attune to the efficiency of their storage solution, and how focusing on this can improve their TCO overall. In 2014, we expect it to become the main factor in any purchasing decision – with companies beginning to focus more on OPEX vs. CAPEX.

In brief, it’s not just about deduplication. Understanding your true capacity requirements is a big one, but the biggest factor is using a true scale-out architecture. Faster applications, elastic scalability, and extended endurance are just a few of the reasons that scale-out will become a proven source of efficiency in 2014, as well as a major factor in lowering companies’ TCO.

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