Top 10 storage predictions: Back to the future

At the end of every year, I try to look back at the predictions I made in the prior 12 months to assess what was hot and what was not.  It's that time of year again, so let's look back at my 2012 predictions, Top 10 Storage Trends for 2012, to see how I did, and then look forward to see what will be the most relevant trends in 2013.  

The Top 10 list from 2012

1) Embedded storage makes a comeback

2012 outcome:

I was dead-on with this one. More and more vendors are offering servers and storage together as modular cloud building blocks for new data centers. This is especially true in the large enterprise, as the cost benefits of implementing reference architecture building blocks are much greater than rolling out complex networks purchased as individual elements (network, servers and storage area network (SAN) storage) and having to rely on technical staff to make sure everything works together.   

Prediction for 2013:

Although smaller IT shops will still buy servers and storage from separate vendors, the trend of moving storage from the SAN back into the server racks will continue and even accelerate in 2013 as converged infrastructure and virtualization continue to blanket large IT shops.

2) Storage virtualization comes of age

2012 Outcome:

Storage virtualization remains a high priority for multi-vendor data centers, which are adding to their SAN infrastructure, but it still has not taken off like virtualization has on the server side. This is an area we need to keep a close eye on, as no single storage virtualization vendor has become the defacto market leader in this space, and the move to integrated object based modular storage in private and public clouds may make large heterogeneous storage installations less attractive.

Prediction for 2013:

Storage virtualization may actually fluctuate between Fibre Channel-based SAN installations and IP-based converged networks.  The ultimate goal will be moving storage closer to the applications while also providing multiple fault-tolerant copies in other locations. Object-based storage access will become more prevalent. Mobile storage will either have a local copy and one in the cloud, or in some cases, all storage will be cloud-based.

3) Data protection moves to the cloud

2012 Outcome:

I was a bit ahead of myself on this one with respect to large datacenters, but cloud-based protection is becoming standard for mobile computing. Smaller datacenters that have embraced server virtualization are beginning to move to the cloud in larger numbers, and many of the larger value-added system resellers are starting up cloud businesses.  

Prediction for 2013:

I think it was Scott McNealy of the once great Sun Microsystems who coined the phrase, “the network is the computer.” Scott was way ahead of his time, but the industry and computing ecosystem is finally coming around to embrace our interconnected planet and provide solutions for the computing problems that were once centered in the data center on very large computer systems and mainframes. The network is fast becoming a larger part of our lives in the way we interact and do business. I see nothing slowing this down in 2013.

4) Recovery time and recovery point objectives improve

2012 Outcome:

I keep missing this one, as I always underestimate the frugal nature of business management. I thought 2012 would be the year continuous protection was finally embraced as a way to eliminate the bulk data movement process of backup, but alas, there are still too many IT shops that invested heavily in traditional backup software and are hesitant to change their processes.

Prediction for 2013:

Always the optimist, I will predict 2013 will finally be the year many IT managers will bite the bullet and change their procedures from backing everything up only once a day to creating periodic snapshots or continually protecting every I/O.

5) Tape lives!

2012 Outcome:

Once again, tape is still here to stay, especially in the large enterprise.

Prediction for 2013:

As data growth is still expanding and regulations keep coming, tape will stay around to act as the long-term archive medium of choice.

6) Data classification and deletion products appear

2012 Outcome:

Data classification and metadata mapping solutions did rise in 2012, but mostly on the unstructured data side of things. I am still waiting for the standards to develop for the database communities along with the emergence of ubiquitous, object-based storage and file system standards. 

Prediction for 2013:

The open Linux side of the house is always in the forefront with these technologies, so we will see the open systems community leading the pack here.

7) Data sharing becomes more important

2012 Outcome:

Can anyone say YouTube, Flikr, Facebook, Dropbox, Skype, etc.? It seems like the entire Internet has become one big file-sharing experience, especially on the mobile front.

Prediction for 2013:

I just read an article that a recent vote in the United Nations declared individual countries can turn off Internet access whenever they want. Leave it to the politicians to screw up a good thing. I don’t see this happening in the U.S., yet. (Notice I said “yet.”)

8) Solid state becomes ubiquitous

2012 Outcome:

Every storage vendor is now offering a solid state drive (SSD) option for its storage arrays, and the system vendors are providing SSD within their blade servers. Need I say more?

Prediction for 2013:

Even my laptop has an SSD. As prices continue to come down and the parts continue to shrink, solid state memory will overtake mechanical spindles in the near future for primary storage, and mechanical disks will move into more of an archive tier.

9) Dedupe becomes part of the file system

2012 Outcome:

This prediction was spot on. Windows 2012 has dedupe built in, and the Unix/ Linux variants are coming on board, also.

Prediction for 2013:

I don’t see appliance-based dedupe targets for backup going away yet, but they will become less important as the source data is deduped before backing it up.

10) Fibre channel is history

2012 Outcome:

OK, so I was a little premature on this one. Those old tape fabrics will probably be around for a long time, but SAN networks are slowly being replaced by disks residing in racks along with the systems for which they store data.

Prediction for 2013:

Until the server virtualization providers enable their virtual machines to directly access Fibre Channel  targets, I see a continued migration toward disk purchases once again becoming part of the system purchase, as storage access continues to migrate to converged IP networks.

Here’s hoping the Mayans were wrong, and cheers to a healthy economy and a vibrant 2013. Happy New Year!

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