10 Storage Predictions For 2012

2012: Brave New Storage World

The storage industry in 2012 will see big shifts as capacity growth starts to decelerate and more data gets moved to the cloud where it can not only be stored but also analyzed in new ways to gain business insights.

In the meantime, some of the top buzz words in the storage industry, including "big data" and "scale-out" will become real technologies or even business models. And the adoption of SSD technology and "bring your own" mobile devices will force storage admins to change the way they handle data.

Welcome to the Brave New Storage World. Continue on, and learn what's in store for the storage industry in 2012.

By the way, feel free to check out the Data Storage Predictions for 2011 posted this time last year to see how we did.

10. Growth In Storage Capacity Decelerates

Year-over-year storage capacity purchased by customers has traditionally grown as businesses deal with growing data with new storage arrays and appliances. This was especially true after the start of the economic recovery.

However, 2012 could mark a turning point as the growth in storage capacity starts to slow down. This is not because the data customers store is falling. Instead, customers are adopting technologies that reduce the need for some of the raw capacity required to store that data.

Included are technologies that directly cut their on-premise storage capacity requirements, such as deduplication and thin provisioning. It also includes the use of public cloud storage as an alternative to new arrays to handle temporary capacity spikes.

9. The Year Of Flash And The SSD

While 2011 was a time for building the SSD and the Flash memory-based storage industry, StorageNewsletter.com estimates there are over 90 SSD makers worldwide.

But 2012 will see a massive increase in the adoption of SSD and Flash memory across the board, from enterprise storage systems where SSDs can boost performance while actually cutting down the number of hard drives used, to servers where PCIe-based Flash memory can significantly boost application speeds, to mobile PCs where SSDs are already displacing hard drives in tablet PCs and ultra-thin notebooks.

And, let's face it, when Apple actually follows through on a plan to acquire Flash drive performance chip developer and SSD manufacturer Anobit, the industry knows the race is on for SSDs.

8. Nothing Small About Big Data

Big data started grabbing storage industry headlines in 2011, but it will be the buzz word of 2012.

"Big data" is data which scales to multiple petabytes of capacity and is created or collected, is stored, and is collaborative in real time. Because of the large amounts of capacity needed to store and get business intelligence from big data, it will be one of the top drivers of storage in the cloud, which has the required capacity. It is also driving all the major and most if not all the second-tier storage vendors to adopt big data technologies, typically from the open-source Hadoop project.

Of course, with all that interest in big data, the term "big data" itself will be the marketing buzzword of 2012 as every storage vendor with a marketing department or specialist will find ways to apply it to their companies' products.

7. Cloud Storage Supplier Boom Continues, Shakeout Looms

The cloud storage business is booming as consumers and businesses look for alternatives to on-premise data protection. Well over 30 companies provide free cloud storage to consumers, in addition to the large number of providers of paid services to both consumers and businesses. For would-be cloud storage providers, turnkey technologies make it easy for almost any solution provider, managed service provider, and even traditional storage vendor to get into the market, which is leading to intense competitive pressures.

At the same time, customers who have so far accepted the occasional cloud storage outage will increasingly scrutinize SLAs and past uptime records to focus in on providers they can trust. So expect a shakeout in 2012 to match the boom in providers.

6. Public Storage Clouds Pick Up Steam

The idea of public storage clouds gained acceptance in 2011 despite a couple of high-profile outages. 2012 will be known as the year when the public cloud storage business really picked up steam.

Analyst firm IDC late last year predicted overall spending by public cloud service providers on storage hardware, software, and professional services to grow annually at 23.6 percent from 2010 to 2015. While that is slightly lower than enterprise spending on storage private clouds, the message is clear: Public cloud storage is an accepted way to protect and mine corporate data.

For 2012, watch for a host of new applications such as archiving, legal discovery, and business intelligence which from Day One will include ties to cloud storage repositories both for storing data and for providing an overflow buffer for handling complex storage-related tasks.

5. Cloud: The New Backup Paradigm

What would a look ahead at 2012 storage trends be without the word "paradigm" appearing at least once?

In 2012, backing up data to a cloud will be as ubiquitous as backing up to tape was 20 years ago. This should be no surprise given the number of storage, server, and PC vendors who have their own storage clouds or who partner with those who do. And, with end users already used to backing up personal data to a cloud, bringing those clouds to the office will be as common as bringing in iPad or Android tablet PCs.

The other driver for the new backup everywhere paradigm is virtualization. Now that well over half of all business workloads have been virtualized, it is a simple step to virtualize other operations. And the most common IT operation is backing up data.

4. Mobility's Impact On Storage To Boom

The continued rapid adoption of personal smart devices such as iPads, Android tablets, and even Window-based devices, will mean users will look for new ways to store their data. While the cloud is the logical choice for a destination for mobile devices, that will bring new headaches to SMB and enterprise storage administrators who will be increasingly tasked with accommodating users' choice of device while maintaining the integrity of the data those users generate and consume.

For 2012, that will mean a scramble for virtualization and storage technologies that allows user device choice while providing centralized control of the data. That will include more private and public cloud storage options, as well as new endpoint security capabilities that restrict what data is stored on mobile devices while auditing who is accessing that data.

3. Thailand Flood's Impact On Storage To Wane Sooner Than Expected

The Thailand floods of late 2011, which cut production of up to one-third of the world's hard drives, caused shortages and price spikes, particularly for desktop and mobile drives. However, predictions of massive shortages lasting through the first half of 2012 should be proven wrong. Western Digital reopened manufacturing facilities in Thailand faster than expected, and Seagate opened new production lines in other countries to handle demand.

Those moves should moderate shortages and price hikes, giving the storage, server, and PC industries a chance to recover more quickly than predicted. However, some consolidation among second-tier storage vendors is likely as their larger rivals will continue to have priority access to supplies.

The floods will also likely drive increased SSD adoption, especially in mobile PCs where increased hard drive prices combined with smaller mobile PC form factors will convince customers to give SSDs a try in 2012.

2. Storage Consolidation To Continue

Last year, as predicted, was huge for storage acquisitions, especially for larger vendors rolling up a number of second-tier vendors to get their hands on new technologies.

The acquisition spree will continue, if not accelerate, in 2012 as vendors look to add new capabilities or even customer sets to their business. Potential targets include storage software vendors like CommVault as larger hardware vendors look to beef up margins with software, or developers of point solutions such as thin provisioning or SSD arrays that could give larger vendors a quick share of fast-growing demand for such technology.

1. Scale-Out Storage Rises To The Top

Scale-out storage, which is the ability to increase storage performance at the same time capacity is increased by the addition of additional modules, came to the forefront in 2011 thanks to the entry of multiple startups featuring the technology, as well as acquisitions which brought it to more established vendors.

Together, they laid the groundwork for making scale-out storage one of the key technologies which customers will used in 2012 to better manage increasing data capacities.

For this year, watch as much or most of the storage industry add scale-out storage as an option at the very least, with many vendors making it a central part of their offering.