The Future Forecast of Flash & SDS

By Gilda Foss, Industry Evangelist, Office of the CTO, NetApp


NetApp CTO, Jay Kidd, recently published his 2014 predictions.  As a Director on the SNIA Solid-state Storage Initiative Governing Board and avid NetApp Industry Evangelist, two more predictions in addition to last month’s discussion peaked my interest.  The first is the witty correlation of the “Hunger Games” beginning for all Flash startups.


Jay states that “The flash market will see increased growth as the presence of mainstream enterprise storage companies validates this technology trend.  The battle between mainstream players and bleeding edge all flash offerings will be won by the ones that host enable customers to deploy the right level of performance, reliability, and scalability for their specific needs and workloads.  Growth in International markets will be led by the mainstream legacy players who have the ability to deliver and support products globally.”


Flash storage has been a hot topic for years in the storage world and it’s interesting to explore the startups that have confronted the challenge of incorporating flash memory into a storage array and how they have positioned themselves in the market against other startups.  Solid-state storage has matured to meet the requirements of server virtualization and desktop as well as to be able to meet the needs of business critical operations.


Given these developments and correlated benefits, it’s not shocking that there are several strong players out there that focus on flash and only flash.  These companies have a wide range of solutions, which include both existing arrays that are retro-fitted with flash drives as well as brand new all-flash products.  Looking a bit closer, the companies with the dedicated flash array products seem to be the ones that actually came to be via acquisition.


It also seems that the leaders in the flash revolution have made it imperative to include flash options in their product line.  However, several of the noteworthy flash startups are still at the forefront of the flash revolution.  Their edge is that they have been designed around the speed and operating characteristics of flash memory with comparable hardware versus being built down to traditional spinning disk performance with software that takes care of all that flash memory demands.


Another prediction that hits close to (NetApp) home is the clarity around Reality vs. Hype when it comes to Software Defined Storage.  Jay states that “As the Software Defined Datacenter vision gains acceptance, the evolutionary path of the infrastructure components becomes clearer Policy-based software control over traditional infrastructure components begins to take root. Virtual versions of infrastructure components – network and storage controllers – become more common.  The most valuable virtual components are the ones that cleanly integrate with existing physical network and storage systems, and can offer features and services consistent with those offered by traditional physical controllers.”


Software-defined storage (SDS) is an approach to data storage in which the programming that controls storage-related tasks is decoupled from the physical storage hardware.  It puts the importance on storage services such as de-duplication or replication instead of storage hardware.  As a result, the lack of limitations of a physical system, a storage resource can be used more resourcefully and efficiently.  This allows its administration to be abridged and streamlined through programmed policy-based management.  This also ultimately means that a storage admin can use service levels when determining how to provision storage without having to factor in hardware characteristics.  In essence, storage essentially becomes a shared pool that runs on commodity hardware.


As I’ve said before, 2014 has certainly geared up for some exciting new technology and innovations… & the future is certainly shade-worthy bright!


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