Infinite I/O

2015 Industry Predictions

Posted by Scott Davis, Infinio CTO on Dec 19, 2014
futurist2014 was an exciting year for storage, and 2015 is shaping up to bring continued innovation in products, technologies, and architectures.  Here are four major themes I think we’ll see in storage in 2015.
I was recently asked to contribute to the annual VMBlog VIrtualization and Cloud Predictions series. You can see the first part of my predictions there. On the Infinio blog, I've put more emphasis on storage predictions. Enjoy! 
  1. A shakeup in storage architecture into a performance layer and a capacity layer

I expect big data to continue to run amok with a vast expansion of unstructured data from the Internet of Things. We’re also seeing an explosion of multi-media content, which contributes to the unstructured data explosion. To be useful, this data will need both cost-effective storage capacity and high-performance access for streaming and real-time analytics. Cost-effective solutions and high-speed, low-latency access are at odds. I think we’re going to see mainstream recognition that these two different dimensions for storage are better suited to independent evolution, moving from a tightly coupled appliance model with a one-size-fits-all storage architecture to something more specialized. I predict 2015 will see the emergence of purchasing and deploying storage performance separately from storage capacity in order to reconcile these competing demands. 

  1. Data protection shifts in form and moves to the cloud

Somewhat quietly, in the past few years, snapshots have taken center stage over traditional backup. They’re less costly operationally, with a smaller downtime window to capture the backup and faster/easier recovery when needed. Couple this with rapidly dropping prices of cloud storage (I recently heard it quoted at $30/TB per month) and its object access model, and this is a great match. I predict that snapshots stored on cloud-based object storage increasingly will replace traditional corporate backups.

  1. Emerging core storage technology (part 1): Spinning Shingled/SMR drives for high capacity.

Flash is a disruptive game changer, no question. But it is a game changer for storage performance, not storage capacity. Prices on flash have been decreasing; I heard a recently reported average of $15-$18 per GB from the leading all-flash array vendors.  While all-flash arrays will continue to grow in popularity, spinning media is not disappearing as SMR (shingled magnetic recording) drives emerge delivering much greater capacity value than flash. This technology takes advantage of higher-tolerance disk heads that can successfully read tracks more narrowly, shrinking the space between tracks by partially overlapping or “shingling” them. Think of these tracks as overlapping rows of roofing shingles. However, because adjacent tracks are not independent and are partially overlapping, writing a track can cause a cascading rewrite of the adjacent tracks as well, slowing performance. To minimize this effect, tracks are grouped into bands with a slightly larger gap between bands.

This technology already delivers 2.5x greater capacity than the previous generation of disks, and terabyte-size platters are now available at a cost of approximately 3 cents per GB.  Clearly the death of spinning disks is not at all imminent. This technology aligns well with the explosion of unstructured data, and the prevalence of sequential access for multi-media files, big data and object storage. 

  1. Emerging core storage technology (part 2): NVDIMM based flash and other nonvolatile memory technologies.

Server-attached flash will continue to gain momentum and we’ll start to see significant performance advances on both reads and writes with non-volatile memory interfaces.  The performance gap between reads and writes with flash is well documented, as are the implications of flash in the server (connected via PCI-e) vs. flash contained in a storage appliance and accessed over a network.

The next generation is on the horizon, referred to as NVDIMM. NVDIMM refers to non-volatile, persistent storage technologies that are connected directly to the memory bus or DIMM slot on a motherboard instead of connected like an I/O device via higher latency PCI-e. Initially, NVDIMM will be backed by flash, and although it will be expensive for general mainstream usage, this next step in non-volatile memories is interfacing directly to a memory DIMM slot. Initially, this will be flash backed and the memory interface will be used to complete writes in fewer than 10 microseconds, an order of magnitude faster than the current mainstream flash approaches.

Are there any trends around storage coming in 2015 that I missed?  Let us know below in the comments.


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