10 Storage Predictions For 2013

Storage In 2013: So Familiar, And Yet So Completely New

Cloud storage, flash storage, storage virtualization software, disaster recovery, and a whole host of technologies are no strangers to solution providers. However, 2013 will be a time of transition as customers seriously look at how to adopt and change those technologies to increase the performance, simplify the management, and squeeze the footprint of their corporate storage environments.

Storage is going flash, right? But how? And what technologies? And the cloud? Watch out for the fine print, including what the actual costs are.

These issues and more will be hot topics of discussion for solution providers and their customers in 2013. Turn the page and get the conversations started. ...

Climate Change? We Believe, When It Comes To DR

Hurricane Sandy, a.k.a. Superstorm Sandy, may not have turned true climate change skeptics into believers, but lessons learned will be features, and selling points, for disaster recovery systems in 2013.

Businesses in the Northeastern U.S. that had good disaster recovery systems were able to recover operations quickly once their power was restored. Look for disaster recovery solution providers and service providers to use climate change, which brings expectations of more intense and more numerous tropical storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, to both beef up their offerings and to market those offerings to potential customers.

All-Flash Storage -- Vendors Will Be Ready

A host of startups have already started warming the market for all-flash storage arrays, but so far the major storage vendors have yet to enter the market. That will change in 2013 as the majors start rolling out their offerings.

EMC will likely be first, thanks to its 2012 acquisition of XtremIO. HP has shown it is ready with the release of an all-SSD version of its 3Par storage array. HP, NetApp, Hitachi Data Systems, and maybe even Oracle will likely join the fray, with acquisitions of, or investments in, some of those startups the fastest way.

Those investments have already started, with one unnamed major storage vendor already taking an equity stake in WhipTail.

All-Flash Storage -- Market Won't Be Ready

While storage vendors in 2013 will use all-flash storage as a way to show they are ready for the future, customers will be slow in picking up on this very expensive form of storage.

Instead, customers looking for higher-performance storage will be giving hybrid arrays, which combine spinning disk for capacity with integrated flash storage as a cache for performance, a close look.

But Flash Will Make Its Impact Felt Even So

With the introduction in 2012 of a wide variety of different types of flash storage technology, measuring the impact of flash on the storage market became a lot more complicated. For customers, there will be questions in 2013 about where to add flash. In the server? On the network? In the storage array? What about all-flash arrays?

That opens the door for savvy solution providers in 2013 to bring a variety of technologies to customers' attention, and to explore how best to squeeze performance without busting storage budgets. As the various flash technologies come to market, customers and their solution providers will actually find there is no single answer, and that flash storage will exist in various forms in their data centers.

Traditional Storage Approaches A Plateau

Customers in 2013 will question the need for more storage capacity as new technologies aimed at sucking data out of local data centers take hold, including:

* The Cloud -- Perfect for storing either transitory data that can be processed and then tossed, or archived data that grows even though it will likely never be accessed.

* Data squeezing technologies -- Whether purchased with hardware or software, and regardless of whether a separate license is required, storage features, such as deduplication, auto replication, thin provisioning and auto-tiering, will put data where it belongs, kill the uninteresting bits and bytes, and add a layer of intelligence and protection.

While total storage capacity sold will likely rise in 2013 -- just think of all that surveillance or medical data being collected -- it will be mainly from aggressive cloud storage provider expansion, while typical business users may throttle back their capacity requirements.

Software: The Biggest Winner In 2012

Storage software sales in 2012 are already growing much faster than storage hardware sales, a trend that will continue in 2013 and beyond as business users look for more control of their storage.

Storage systems in the typical data center are anything but homogeneous, thanks to mergers and acquisitions, purchases for specific projects, predatory pricing and aggressive sales reps and other reasons. But trying to replicate data between them, or migrate data from one to another, or turn storage into a service, is increasingly difficult given the proprietary nature of storage operating systems.

Software using virtualization and other technologies will be the key to breaking down the barriers to manage storage in a simple, logical fashion.

Proprietary Storage: The Biggest Loser In 2013

While software will help business users manage all their disparate storage systems as a nice, simple whole, companies increasingly will ask why they even need to purchase proprietary storage.

This will start hitting major storage vendors hard in 2013. The large, established storage suppliers not only have file systems that are incompatible with competitors' arrays, but different product lines from the same vendor typically lack interoperability.

A vendor can take advantage of locking in a customer on a particular technology, but that strategy will increasingly backfire on such vendors as customers discover they can use good software connected to simple, low-cost and open storage arrays, or even storage clouds, while having access to the kind of performance protection and management features previously only available from a handful of big vendors.

Buy! Buy! Buy!

The storage acquisition spree will continue in 2013, with special emphasis on:

* All-flash array developers -- This part of the storage industry is full of startups. Indeed, startups are driving the development of all-flash arrays. EMC's acquisition of XtremIO, even before anyone heard of that company, led the way for other similar deals.

* Storage software developers -- Customers have accepted the idea of purchasing solutions, and hardware vendors such as Dell, HP, HDS and IBM in 2012 responded with software acquisitions. Expect more this year, including large deals such as acquisitions of CommVault or Symantec's storage business.

Cloud Storage Ready, But Not Cloud Prices

Cloud storage technology is at the point where nearly every storage function from primary storage to data protection to processing of big data can be done in the cloud.

However, the cost of cloud storage is still several times higher on a per-GByte basis than the hard drives, flash storage and tape drives most businesses are still using.

This will continue to be a big impediment to high-capacity use of cloud storage in 2013, leaving the cloud to be used mainly for more ephemeral uses such as disaster recovery or big data, tasks that require large amounts of capacity. In such cases, the alternative is to purchase more capacity than typically can be used, increasing the cost of local storage.

Primary storage in the cloud? Not in 2013, or maybe even 2014, despite promises of such capabilities by certain vendors.

Better Be Ready For BYOD And Storage

The ongoing wave of interest in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon will rear its head in the eyes of storage admins, who will be charged with figuring out how to manage the corporate data users will be generating, accessing and sharing with outsiders via their iOS, Google, Windows, RIM and WebOS devices.

This is not a trivial question. Businesses will have to tread a fine line between letting users access corporate data on their own mobile devices and letting IT admins control who accesses it and how, all while making data availability transparent to users regardless of device platform.

In 2013, it will be important to handle this issue before being forced to do so by business users who have already made mobile devices a central component of their work and leisure systems.