The storage industry forecast: Predictions for 2018

Spectra Logic gazes into the crystal ball and shares its projections as to the movers and shakers of 2018 within the storage industry.

With a new year approaching, it’s time to review the trends within the storage landscape, reflect upon the most hotly adopted technologies of 2017 and offer predictions as to which key advancements will deliver enduring value for end users over the next 12 months.


High on many agendas will be continued preparation for the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation, which comes into force in May. Many companies are not prepared for the implementation of these new rules and haven’t planned for changes in the way EU citizens’ personal data must be stored, processed and forgotten.

>See also: Enterprise storage in 2017: trends and challenges

The regulation applies to all companies that store EU citizens’ data, whether or not those companies are based in the EU, and no matter where that data is stored. For some companies, investing in new data centres, designed to comply with GDPR rules, might be the only option.

How and where systems will be set up to enable the ability to delete data upon request and how the data will be protected will be the main deciders for storage strategies and products to support GDPR.


Archiving practices will continue to be a priority in response to the global data explosion and legal mandates requiring the long-term availability of records. There will be an emphasis on utilising multiple forms of storage media across every environment and the geographic dispersal of data – making sure data is stored across different sites – to mitigate data loss.

The newest segment for archive is bioinformatics, (which develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data), though high performance computing (HPC), oil and gas, and the media and entertainment sectors have already employed more sophisticated data practices, such as the use of metadata, for some time.

>See also: An industry perspective of the evolution of storage – hyperconvergence

This upfront data collection enables a more advanced search for data. Smart storage practice such as geographical dispersal is still very much a new idea for many organisations and is not yet fully adopted by the majority of vertical industries, with the exception of some examples in HPC and data preservation scientists within museums, for example. This will start to change in the coming 12 months, as more companies recognise the benefits and allocate budget to achieve this.


We will see the demand for solid state flash storage continue to rise steadily in 2018 through to 2020, as investments being made by flash vendors increase, allowing for more capacity and less cost per unit. Flash’s success is highlighted by its triumph over the magnetic disk drive market and its dominance in both the high and low-end laptop markets, as well as desktops, gaming devices and digital video recorders, where it has almost completely replaced disk as the storage of choice.

Spectra Logic predicts that as the disk market will continue to shrink and flash capacity increases year-on-year, flash will become the more viable option.

>See also: The journey of data storage: what’s next?

In fact, a long-term prognosis sees a future where tape and flash technologies happily co-exist, with the deployment of tape cost-effectively serving long-term archive requirements, and flash for fast online storage needs. This genetic diversity – using multiple media types in the network – is suggested for all storage administrators.


With the evolution of tape and its ongoing potential for capacity and speed improvements, such as the new tape head technology, TMR (tunneling magneto resistance), this medium will become increasingly attractive in fulfilling a deep market need as an inexpensive storage option, to not only any organisation with significant data sets (into petabyte levels), but also for its ability to integrate well with cloud strategies in DR (disaster recovery) plans.

Though tape’s role as a back-up medium will somewhat decline as IT backup moves to disk-based technology, as small and medium enterprises move their disaster recovery strategies to the cloud, the recognition for tape’s proficiency in archive and long-term data preservation will become much more entrenched.

The data migration to the cloud trend will continue, and cloud providers with the incentive of lowering the cost per GB of storage for customers will increasingly look to tape media as the solution to long-term storage.

>See also: Strategies are singular and storage is modular

Equally, as cloud providers aim for pricing structures at cost/TB (terabyte), tape’s upgrade to LTO-8 means that the earlier generation of LTO-7 media will be cheaper for a time, and therefore a more attractive option to cloud providers.


Compared to other technologies, cloud computing has certainly been the fastest to influence the data centre today.

In 2018 cloud providers will continue to consume increasing volumes of the storage market, making best use of the opportunity to adopt new storage technologies. While the storage providers will ensure their products and services are optimised for these environments.

For example, with flash, the cloud workload should be ascertained as well as how it could affect device write life and could lead to greater capacities being exposed.

That being said, the trend of data repatriation back to on-premise will also continue as customers realise the high cost of keeping all vital data in the cloud. Typically, CIOs want to explore what data can be migrated to the cloud, and despite reporting on the high costs of doing so, IT administrators often receive further pressure to move data to the cloud from the CFO, switching the situation from Cap Ex to Op Ex.

>See also: CIOs: how to choose storage for virtual environments

Equally, if the data is required by legislation to be kept in a specific region, if the cloud provider isn’t set up country-to-country, then the trend of customers being forced to bring the data back in-house will persist.

Object storage

More protocols embedded into the operating systems of object storage will continue to offer increased opportunities to simplify data management. Forward-looking end users will focus on R&D for object-based storage. Vendors will introduce more integration between different tiers of object storage. The hardware manufacturers will put forth joint solutions, rather than leaving integration to the customers. Object storage lowers complexity, middleware maintenance, upgrades and costs, and simplifies overall infrastructures.

Optical disk storage

Due to the high costs optical disk storage maintains, a downward trend in this market will continue towards the end of 2017, going into 2018. Though still an appropriate option for the definitive long-term archival requirements for customers, this medium still works out to be about ten times more expensive than tape.

Without progress being made in the production cost of new higher capacity disks, optical disk storage will remain a niche technology, foremost in the media and entertainment industry.

>See also: Flash storage: transforming the storage industry

CIOs should plan for data preservation as a priority today and evaluate data growth against the estimated costs for long-term budget cycles. Though projections do not call for shortages or rising media costs, expectations of rapidly declining storage costs should not eradicate the need to account for and plan for growth, as well as (for safety and economy), the allocation of data to different media types.

CIOs would do well to take the disruption of the storage industry and recent dramatic shifts into account, be prepared for yet more change while planning ahead for the long game.


Sourced from Brian Grainger, CSO, Spectra Logic

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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