Enterprise storage in 2018: trends and challenges

Information Age previews the storage landscape in 2018 – from the technologies that businesses will implement to the new challenges they will face.

The enthusiastic outsourcing to the cloud by enterprise CIOs in 2017 will start to tail off in 2018, as finance directors discover that the high costs are not viable long-term. Board-level management will try to reconcile the alluring simplicity they bought into against the lack of visibility into hardware and operations.

As enterprises attempt to solve the issue of maximising a return for using the cloud, many will realise that the arrangement they are in may not be suitable across the board and seek to bring some of their data back in-house.

It will sink in that using cloud for small data sets can work really well in the enterprise, but as soon as the volume of data grows to a sizeable amount, the outsourced model becomes extremely costly.

Enterprises will extract the most value from their IT infrastructures through hybrid cloud in 2018, keeping a large amount of data on-premise using private cloud and leveraging key aspects of public cloud for distribution, crunching numbers and cloud compute, for example.

>See also: 5 hot topics for information management in 2018

‘The combined cost of managing all storage from people, software and full infrastructure is getting very expensive as retention rates on varying storage systems differ,’ says Matt Starr, CTO at Spectra Logic. ‘There is also the added pressure of legislation and compliance as more people want or need to keep everything forever.

‘Throughout 2017, disk will struggle to keep up with capacity for the enterprise, and here we expect to see tape taking a leadership position, specifically for companies looking to keep their data long-term.’

Turning up the heat

Away from cloud, a major advancement that will bring change to the storage industry in 2018 is heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR).

This method uses lasers to heat the high-stability media before magnetically recording data, and is predicted to increase the limit of magnetic recording by more than a factor of 100.

To put this in perspective, a digital library of all books written in the world could conceivably be stored on as few as 20 HAMR drives.

After innovation and evolution over several years, current prototypes of HAMR-based HDDs bear witness to the potential and feasibility of the technology.

Next year will be a critical stage in the process of testing and evaluating the ways in which it can be incorporated into data centres and other existing infrastructure environments.

‘With strong potential for wider rollout in the next couple of years, HAMR is currently one of the most exciting and viable technologies facing the storage market,’ says Seagate’s senior director for EMEA cloud initiatives, Joe Fagan.

Another interesting emerging technology is DNA storage, which is currently gaining in popularity. However, though its durability and density make it a very plausible data medium, for now it’s too expensive and doesn’t scale well.

‘I don’t think it’s likely to become a mainstream storage option for a good few years yet,’ says Fagan. ‘But there is a great deal of potential there.’

The issue with DNA isn’t storing the data – it’s how to get it back in a reproducible manner. To get the data back and be able to read it, users may need an expensive reader or microscope.

The same issues occurred with optical tape and holographic storage. The reader and costs are the last hurdles to jump and typically put this type of exploratory research on hold.

‘We predict no significant uptick on storage spend in 2018, and certainly no drastic doubling of spend,’ says Starr. ‘You will see the transition from rotational to flash. Budgets aren’t keeping up with the rates that data is increasing.’

The prospect of a hybrid data centre will, however, trigger more investment eventually. The model is a more efficient capacity tier based on pure object storage at the drive level and above this a combination of high-performance HDD (hard disk drives) and SSD (solid state drives).

Hybrid technology has been used successfully in laptops and desktop computers for years, but it’s only just beginning to be considered for enterprise-scale data centres.

While the industry is in the very early stages of implementing this new method for enterprise, Fagan expects 70% of new data centres to be hybrid by 2020.

‘This is a trend that I expect to briskly pick up pace,’ he says. ‘As the need for faster and more efficient storage becomes more pressing, we must all look to make smart plans for the inevitable data deluge.’

The data landscape

On the vendor side, storage firms will have to look at producing even higher density solutions in 2018 as big data use continues to grow within businesses. The winners will be those that bring new technologies to market quickly.

Storage companies will also begin to shift from simply providing hardware to offering businesses the level of service they need. The storage that supports this will take a back seat as IT becomes a line-of-business conversation.

‘Data management and protection are the biggest issues in the world of data at the moment,’ says Laurence James, products, alliances and solutions manager for NEMEA at NetApp. ‘Providers must ensure that they are equipping businesses with everything they need to be agile as new regulations are introduced.’

The most significant regulation facing businesses is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in 2018 and will subject businesses to fines of up to 4% of global annual turnover if they don’t implement a comprehensive data governance policy.

And there’s no getting around GDPR with Brexit. The Information Commissioner’s Office has made it clear that data protection rules will follow those outlined in GDPR – and besides, the UK won’t be leaving the EU until 2019 at the earliest.

Companies must evaluate where they are right now, and how much work is needed. Marketers will be affected by new rules on opt-in acceptance, and IT teams will have to consider storage of customer data across the business. Collaboration across departments will be required to ensure compliance.

‘GDPR will be the big issue for companies in the UK,’ says Dave Packer, VP of corporate and product marketing at Druva. ‘While there’s a lot of awareness of GDPR in general, I don’t think most IT professionals currently understand quite how much they will have to change in how companies work with data. There will be so much more emphasis on data across the organisation as a whole.’

Young loyalty

Unsurprisingly, the biggest pain point for IT professionals is cost of management, automation and optimisation. This is why the storage industry is pivoting to focus on service delivery rather than how storage operates.

By ensuring that storage offers additional services that exactly meet the needs of the business that’s using it, providers can ensure that their customers are getting the best possible return on their investment.

Meanwhile, with younger customers increasingly loyal to an experience rather than a brand, IT professionals are having to look at how they address this.

Data is a valuable business tool for providing the level of insight required to create these experiences, but companies need to be able to access this insight quickly or risk losing both customers and sales.

‘If you’re going to go and buy a new system that will hold your customer-facing, revenue-generating website,’ says James, ‘it needs to be quick, reliable and efficient, and storage providers need to make sure that they’re producing the solutions to support this.’

>See also: What’s in store for cloud in 2017?

The world is only just learning how to get the most out of mass digital information, and it will be some years yet before it can provide truly discerning business insights.

However, the companies that will succeed are those that accept that technological investment must be planned to ensure the reliable management and safeguarding of data, and that businesses ultimately get the most from the data they create and store.

On a business-by-business basis, the key success factor in navigating these waters will be in realising that storage considerations have an essential
part to play in functional and cost-effective infrastructure planning.

‘They need to be as strategic and imperative as choosing the right CRM system or app development tool,’ says Fagan. ‘Making the right choice at the right time is a significant step in the direction of future-proofing the business in a fast-changing market.’

Avatar photo

Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

Related Topics