Storage used to be dominated by block-based architectures. But file storage steadily grained ground from the late nineties on as NetApp filers grew in popularity.
These days, the lines between file, block, and object storage have blurred as cloud storage has risen to the fore. Yet, file remains as relevant as it was 20 years ago.
Here are some of the top trends companies and IT teams are seeing in the cloud file storage market:
1. Digital transformation
More than 90% of enterprises are undergoing digital transformation (DX), according to Eric Burgener, an analyst at IDC.
This requires them to adjust their storage architectures as well as their business models and decision-making processes towards more of a data-centric approach.
With more data than ever being captured, stored, protected, and analyzed, IDC forecasts that almost 70% of enterprises will have to modernize their server, storage, and data protection infrastructure within the next two years.
“These technology refresh projects are primarily driven by the requirements of new workloads that enterprises are deploying as a result of DX — many of which leverage AI-driven big data analytics workloads using unstructured data,” Burgener said.
File storage will play a big part in storing this unstructured data.
2. On-premises file storage growth
Eight percent of all data to be stored over the next five years will be unstructured, according to IDC. This will be primarily file- or object-based.
“Overall, enterprises have an average of 71 PB of file storage in on-premises locations,” said Burgener with IDC.
“On-premises file storage was expected to grow at 46% per year over the next five years.”
That is a major growth trend. Clearly, on-premises storage is here to stay, and file storage is a go-to repository for it.
3. Cloud file storage growth
File storage is no longer only for on-premises storage. It has become a popular way of storing data in the cloud.
IDC forecasts that organizations will send over 91 PB of file storage to public cloud locations in the coming half decade. That means file to the cloud will outdo file to on-premises for the first time. The growth rate of on-premises file storage will be surpassed by public cloud file storage, which is expected to grow at 53% per year for at least another five years.
What all these figures show is that file storage continues to lead overall compared to object storage. File storage has about a 20% advantage over object storage in the public cloud, and they are roughly tied on-premises.
“Growth rates for data in the public cloud, fueled by both file and object storage growth, were higher than growth rates for on-premises storage,” said Burgener with IDC.
4. Tiered storage
File storage has also proven useful in storage tiering.
By placing different categories of storage in discrete tiers, data can be retained based on its performance, availability, capacity, and cost needs.
As the value of data diminishes, it is gradually reduced from tier to tier, until it is in a cold storage tier or archive, where it is rarely if ever accessed.
Modern tiered storage solutions support multiple media types within one system and come with all kinds of bells and whistles. This includes intelligent data placement that can determine where data is stored (all-flash, hybrid, hard disk drive (HDD), or tape), and where new data should be placed.
5. Archiving growth and performance
Roughly 35% of all corporate data has not been used even once in the past six months, according to IDC. Some analysts put the number much higher.
Thus, archiving has become a vital element when it comes to raising the efficiency of storage infrastructure. Active data is retained in higher performance tiers, but the bulk of data is offloaded to lower tiers to reduce overall costs.
Fifty-two percent of enterprises tier older data to on-premises archives, according to IDC. The rest use public cloud archives. This dispersal of data makes it important to harness data classification tools that intelligently place data based on pre-set policies.
But even archived data, these days, needs high performance. Organizations have been reluctant to archive data to tape, as they perceive that it could take hours if not days to retrieve a file, in the unlikely event that the need might arise.
Tape vendors have solved this problem via what are known as active archives. These systems enable reliable, online, and cost-effective access to data throughout its life. They are compatible with multiple media types, including flash, disk, tape, and the cloud. They can also accommodate file, block or object storage. These systems can shuffle data from one storage tier to another and do so at a rate much cheaper than other media.