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8 Ways Data Center Storage Will Change in 2018


The storage industry was on a roller coaster in 2017, with the decline of traditional SAN gear offset by enterprise interest in hyperconverged infrastructure, software-only solutions, and solid-state drives. We have seen enterprises shift from hard disks to solid-state as the boost in performance with SSDs transforms data center storage.

2018 will build on these trends and also add some new items to the storage roadmap. SSD is still evolving rapidly on four fronts:  core technology, performance, capacity and price. NVMe has already boosted flash IOPS and GB per second into the stratosphere and we stand on the brink of mainstream adoption of NVMe over Ethernet, with broad implications for how storage systems are configured going forward.

Vendors are shipping 32TB SSDs, leaving the largest HDD far behind at 16TB. With 3D die technology hitting its stride, we should see 50TB and 100TB drives in 2018, especially if 4-bit storage cells hit their goals. Much of the supply shortage in flash die is behind us, and prices should begin to drop again, though demand may grow faster than expected and slow the price drop.

Outside of the drives themselves, RAID arrays are in trouble. With an inherent performance bottleneck in the controller design, handling more than a few SSDs is a real challenge. Meanwhile, small storage appliances, which are essentially inexpensive commercial off-the-shelf servers, meet the need of object stores and hyperconverged nodes. This migration is fueled by startups like Excelero, which connect drives directly to the cluster fabric at RDMA speeds using NVMe over Ethernet.

A look at recent results reflects the industry’s shift to COTS. With the exception of NetApp, traditional storage vendors are experiencing single-digit revenue growth, while original design manufacturers, which supply huge volumes of COTS to cloud providers, are collectively seeing growth of 44%. Behind that growth is the increasing availability of unbundled storage software. The combination of cheap storage platforms and low-cost software is rapidly commoditizing the storage market. This trend will accelerate in 2018 as software-defined storage (SDS) begins to shape the market.

SDS is a broad concept, but inherently unbundles control and service software from hardware platforms. The concept has been very successful in networking and in cloud servers, so extending it to storage is not only logical, but required. We’ll see more SDS solutions and competition in 2018 than we’ve had in any year of the last decade.

NVMe will continue to replace SAS and SATA as the interface for enterprise drives. Over and above the savings in CPU overhead that it brings, NVMe supports new form-factor drives. We can expect 32TB+ SSDs in a 2.5 inch size in 2018, as well as servers using M.2 storage variants.

This has massive implications. Intel has showcased an M.2 “ruler” blade drive with 33+ TB capacities that can be mounted in a 1U server with 32 slots. That gives us a 1 Petabyte, ultra-fast 1U storage solution. Other vendors are talking up similar densities, signaling an important trend. Storage boxes will get smaller, hold huge capacities, and, due to SSD speed, outperform acres of HDD arrays. You’ll be able to go to the CIO and say, “I  really can shrink the data center!”

There’s more, though! High-performance SSDs enable deduplication and compression of data as an invisible background job. The services doing this use the excess bandwidth of the storage drives. For most commercial use cases, the effective capacity is multiplied 5X or more compared with raw capacity. Overall, compression reduces the number of small appliances needed, making SSD storage much cheaper overall than hard drives.

Let’s delve into the details of all these storage trends we can expect to see in the data center this year.

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8 Tech Books for Winter Reading


With the official start of winter fast approaching, the cold, short days already have many hunkering down and focused on indoor activities. The weather is perfect for curling up in front of a fire with a book. For IT pros, it’s a great time to expand their knowledge by catching up on some of the latest tech books.

Our collection covers some of the hottest topics in the technology industry today, including cloud infrastructure, containers, and cybersecurity. You’ll also find a book about problem solving in modern networks by well-known experts Russ White and Ethan Banks, and even a graphic novel. Mostly all recent releases, these tech books are essentially hot off the press.

Today, more than ever, IT pros need to keep up with rapidly evolving technology trends. Enterprise adoption of cloud, software-defined technologies, and automation are breaking down traditional IT silos, so it’s a good idea to learn about technologies outside your usual realm. What better time than now, especially if you have some downtime during the holidays? Maybe you can even put some gift cards to good use by stocking up on tech books that can broaden your horizons.

Read ahead for some ideas of what to read during the chilly months ahead.

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Choosing a Cloud Provider: 8 Storage Considerations


Amazon Web Services, Google, and Azure dominate the cloud service provider space, but for some applications it may make sense to choose a smaller provider specializing in your app class and able to deliver a finer-tuned solution. No matter which cloud provider you choose, it pays to look closely at the wide variety of cloud storage services they offer to make sure they will meet your company’s requirements.

There are two major classes of storage with the big cloud providers, which offer local instance storage with selected instances, as well as a selection of network storage options for permanent storage and sharing between instances.

As with any storage, performance is a factor in your decision-making process. There are many shared network storage alternatives, including storage tiers from really hot to freezing cold and within the top tiers, differences depending on choice of replica count, and variations in prices for copying data to other spaces.

The very hot tier is moving to SSD and even here there are differences between NVMe and SATA SSDs, which cloud tenants typically see as IOPS levels. For large instances and GPU-based instances, the faster choice is probably better, though this depends on your use case.

At the other extreme, the cold and “freezing” storage, the choices are disk or tape, which impacts data retrieval times. With tape, that can take as much as two hours, compared with just seconds for disk.

Data security and vendor reliability are two other key considerations when choosing a cloud provider that will store your enterprise data.  Continue on to get tips for your selection process.

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8 Infrastructure Trends Ahead for 2018


The cloud is making inroads into the enterprise, but on-premises IT infrastructure remains a critical part of companies’ IT strategies. According to the Interop ITX and InformationWeek 2018 State of Infrastructure study, companies are continuing to invest in data center, storage, and networking infrastructure as they build out their digital strategies.

The survey, which polled 150 IT leaders and practitioners from a range of industries and company sizes, found that 24% said their organization plans to increase spending on IT infrastructure by more than 10% in the next year. Twenty-one percent plan to spend 5% to 10% more on IT infrastructure spending compared to last year while 18% expect to spend no more than 5%.

Twenty-seven percent of IT leaders surveyed said their organizations plan to increase build out or support of IT infrastructure in order to support new business opportunities. Another 30% cited increased workforce demands as the driver for a bigger focus on infrastructure.

Enterprises are investing in a variety of technologies to help them achieve their digital goals and keep up with changing demands, according to the study. Storage is a huge focus for companies as they try to keep pace with skyrocketing data growth. In fact, the rapid growth of data and data storage is the single greatest factor driving change in IT infrastructure, the survey showed.

Companies are also focused on boosting network security, increasing bandwidth, adding more servers to their data centers, and building out their WLANs.

At the same time, they see plenty of challenges ahead to modernizing their infrastructure, including cost of implementation, lack of staff expertise, and security concerns.

Read ahead to find out what organizations are planning in the year ahead for their IT infrastructure. For the full survey results, download the complete report. Learn more about infrastructure trends at Interop ITX in Las Vegas April 30-May 4. Register today! 

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Object Storage: 8 Things to Know


Object storage is one of the hottest technology trends, but it isn’t a particularly new idea: The concept surfaced in the mid-90s and by 2005 a number of alternatives had entered the market. Resistance from the entrenched file (NAS) and block (SAN) vendors, coupled with a new interface method, slowed adoption of object storage. Today, with the brilliant success of Amazon Web Services’ S3 storage system, object storage is here to stay and is making huge gains against older storage methods.

Object storage is well suited to the new data environment. Unstructured data, which includes large media files and so-called big data objects, is growing at a much faster rate than structured data and, overall, data itself is growing at a phenomenal rate.

Experience has taught us that traditional block systems become complex to manage at a relatively low scale, while the concept of creating a single pool of data breaks down as the number of appliances increases, especially if the pool crosses the boundaries of different equipment types. Filers have hierarchies of file folders which become cumbersome at scale, while today’s thousands of virtual instances make file-sharing systems clumsy.

An inherent design feature of object stores is distribution of objects across all of the storage devices, or at least into subsets if there is a large number of devices in the cluster. This removes a design weakness of the block/file approach, where failure in an appliance or in more than a single drive could cause either a loss of data availability or even loss of data itself.

Object stores typically use an algorithm such as CRUSH to spread chunks of a data object out in a known and predictable way. Coupling this with replication, and more recently with erasure coding, means that several nodes or drives can fail without materially impacting data integrity or access performance. The object approach also effectively parallelizes access to larger objects, since a number of nodes will all be transferring pieces of the object at the same time.

There are now a good number of software-only vendors today, all of which are installable on a wide variety of COTS hardware platforms. This includes the popular Ceph open source solution, backed by Red Hat. The combination of any of these software stacks and low-cost COTS gear makes object stores attractive on a price-per-terabyte basis, compared to traditional proprietary NAS or SAN gear.

Object storage is evolving to absorb the other storage models by offering a “universal storage” model where object, file and block access portals all talk to the same pool of raw object storage.  Likely, universal storage will deploy as object storage, with the other two access modes being used to create a file or block secondary storage to say all-flash arrays or filers. In the long term, universal storage looks to be the converging solution for the whole industry.

This trend is enhanced by the growth of software-defined storage (SDS). Object stores all run natively in a COTS standard server engine, which means the transition from software built onto an appliance to software virtualized into the instance pool is in most cases trivial. This is most definitely not the case for older proprietary NAS or SAN code. For object stores, SDS makes it possible to scale services such as compression and deduplication easily. It also opens up rich services such as data indexing.

Continue on to get up to speed on object storage and learn how it’s shaking up enterprise storage.

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