Which storage technologies and vendors will fly in 2011?
Someone's gonna crash and burn
Questions At this turning point of the year, as Dell wraps up Compellent and InSite One, and Atrato slides under the waves, it's timely to look ahead at the storage world in 2011 and ask que sera?
Data growth and storage demand is seemingly unstoppable, and new storage tech has advanced quite a bit in 2010. Things are looking good for the industry in general.
It may be that multi-level cell (MLC) flash will be cheap enough, reliable enough and last long enough to kill off the 3.5-inch Fibre Channel hard disk drive (HDD) business in tandem with the rise of fast 2.5-inch HDDs. That same flash could bound out from its tablet computing base and establish defensible beach heads in the notebook market and, even, the desktop PC market. After all, what other way can Windows bloatware-bound notebooks and PCs fly than by feeding the Windows software flab to multi-core processors as fast as flash makes possible?
We might see 2.5-inch disk drives take over from 3.5-inch disk drives everywhere except for bulk data storage in arrays and in desktops and external drive. For sure we'll see 4TB 3.5-inch drives next year and 2TB 2.5-inch ones will be hinted at, won't they?
Here at El Reg we are waiting to see if HDD suppliers other than Seagate develop hybrid SSD+HDD products.
A big, big question is whether converged IT stacks will prove popular and start lifting the fortunes of system (server + network + storage) vendors at the expense of stand-alone storage vendors. We see four main issues here.
Will Michael Capellas' VCE deliver on the promise its execs and company bankrollers are hinting at? We are also looking at the prospect of IBM delivering an integrated platform combining its blade servers, Storwize V7000, and Blade Network Technologies' networking along with orchestration software and perhaps development tools? There is the possibility that Dell will buy into networking technology, the presumed main missing link in its converged IT stack ambitions. Lastly, Cisco could add storage in some way to its UCS and Nexus products to produce an all-Cisco converged IT stack.
Will cloud storage move into the mass market and take cloud storage gateways with it, brightening the prospects for start-ups such as Aspera, BridgeSTOR, Cirtas, Nasuni and StorSimple? We might see EMC's Atmos surge into prominence as cloud storage providers buy the box in droves. The cloud could also propel object storage into prominence, boosting the fortunes of Caringo and Dell with its DX6000 box.
We are also looking at EMC's Centera expectantly and asking whether Atmos will take over its object role as far as the cloud goes, and whether a specific Centera hardware platform will survive separately from the CLARiiON and Celerra arrays.
Will NetApp just keep on growing market share or will EMC, Dell, HP and IBM manage together to rein it in?
That depends upon HP managing to revive its mid-range fortunes with a refreshed EVA line and boosted down-market 3PAR box. It will require EMC to deliver on its mid-range unification theme by doing something in the Celerra and CLARiiON space, something combinatorial as we might say, and IBM putting more of its mid-range wood behind one arrow, looking like the Storwize V7000 and not the XIV array. That will possibly become a filler-in of IBM's mid-range storage catalogue, along with the DS5000.
Any curbing of NetApp will also depend upon Dell getting its mid-range storage act together, and doing far better with Compellent than it has done with the co-branded EMC CLARiiON products. NetApp must surely have benefited and be benefiting from its competitors' weakness in their core mid-range products. We expect NetApp to deliver more updates to ONTAP to make clustering more real and also do more with its virtual appliance version of ONTAP
Will tape survive another year? Don't be silly, of course it will. There is no alternative for affordable and durable bulk archive data storage.
2011 could see FCoE arrive and also parallel NFS. Maybe is the answer in both cases, with parallel NFS potentially having a greater effect as filers are more widespread than Fibre Channel SANs.
Turning to other suppliers, we can ask: Will Hitachi GST execute an IPO as it is saying it will? We'll watch to see if Hitachi Data Systems continues in its serene upwards progress with its VSP and AMS arrays, apparently effortlessly withstanding the critical barbs flying its way from EMC and other. There is the prospect of BlueArc filing for an IPO as hints coming out of the company suggest it might. We're also interested to see how Huawei-Symantec will prosper as a storage hardware supplier outside mainland China and, particularly, in the USA.
Where will EMC apply its energies next? It doesn't have a cloud storage gateway product and nor does it have a filer accelerator box along the lines of the Avere product. CommVault's Simpana looks like a terrific data management software suite and NetApp appears to favour it as does Dell. Symantec has had to endure speculative thoughts about its potential breakup, based on judgements about its inability to unlock the value in acquired software like that from Veritas. What will it do in 2011?
Quantum did well in 2010. It has emerged from the EMC/Data Domain imbroglio and is making progress with its DXi deduplication technology, particularly via the Fujitsu reselling deal with NetApp. It has its StorNext file management product and that might be developed to work better with the cloud. There is a chance Quantum will enter the cloud storage gateway market.
Another chance, possibly a long shot, is that InPhaseTechnologies will finally manage to bring its Tapestry holographic storage product to the market.
Does the market want sealed canisters of disk drives in large enough numbers to deliver the turnaround that Xiotech's energetic management team are working so hard to create? If it does then Xiotech cold break out in 2011 and start really going places.
We'll watch how Pillar Data fares among the much reduced ranks of the stand-alone storage array vendors as it refreshes its Axiom hardware and extends its software capabilities.
Ditto Coraid, sitting at the end of a small Ethernet storage rainbow, and hoping to develop a valid technology that storage buyers will be attracted to for its low-cost and technical simplicity.
Will Overland Storage have a Barrall boost as the fertile inventiveness of Mr Drobo BlueArc provides product technology that Overland's channel can put into the hands of delighted customers?
Questions, speculations and more questions. We haven't looked at high-end EMC and IBM storage arrays. Nor have we asked what's going to happen with CA.
The truth is that the world of storage suppliers and technology is not stable, nor is it set in concrete. Customers want to access their data fast, store it securely, reliably and cheaply and retrieve it when its lost due to error or disaster. It's not much to ask is it?
But the amount of data and its complexity is so unutterably colossal that the storage industry will strive and thrive throughout 2011 as it does its best to deliver what its customers want: more speedy, reliable and recoverable storage bangs for their bucks. ®