Storage Hardware Q&A With Ravi Pendekanti at Western Digital

Storage hardware is the heart of cloud and on-premises architectures and storage software. 

As companies are producing more internal and client-facing data, hardware storage and solutions must keep pace. For instance, all the printed material in the Library of Congress could be held with 10 TB of storage.

A market leader that specializes in storage hardware, particularly hard disk drives (HDD) and solid-state drives (SSD), is San Jose, California-based Western Digital.

Enterprise Storage Forum interviewed Ravi Pendekanti — the SVP of product management and marketing for the HDD business unit at Western Digital — who provides insight on the current state of storage hardware:

Ravi Pendekanti

Ravi Pendekanti.
Ravi Pendekanti. Courtesy Western Digital.

Pendekanti leads Western Digital’s HDD product planning, pricing, segment marketing, and competitive analysis. Pendekanti has three decades of experience in technology, working with various companies, such as Dell, Oracle, Juniper Networks, Hewlett-Packard, and Silicon Graphics.

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Storage hardware Q&A

The storage hardware market

Enterprise Software Forum: How did you first start working in storage hardware?

Pendekanti: This was more than two decades ago while I was at Sun Microsystems. We were serving the largest financial and telecommunication institutions who were all looking for storage to go along with RISC-based servers. We were also, at that time, at the forefront of NFS and went on to acquire StorageTek.

Enterprise Software Forum: What is your favorite thing about working at Western Digital?

Pendekanti: Two aspects immediately come to mind. First is that storage is a growing need with everyone looking to store more data. The market for storage and its associated innovations is expansive, and it will thrive for the foreseeable future. Second is that I get the privilege of working with some of the most talented colleagues and engineers to develop new technologies and products. In my career, I’ve never seen a higher density of Ph.D. colleagues across disciplines, such as applied sciences, computer science, mechanical engineering. The caliber of research and development here is why Western Digital continues to lead the storage industry. 

Enterprise Software Forum: What sets Western Digital’s storage hardware approach or solutions apart from the competition?

Pendekanti: Simply put — it is our relentless pursuit of innovation.

Enterprise Software Forum: What is one key storage hardware technology that particularly interests you?

Pendekanti: HDDs, of course! They have been the foundation of storage technology for the last 50+ years, and they will continue in this capacity for the next 50+ years. 

Enterprise Software Forum: What is one storage hardware strategy that companies should implement?

Pendekanti: Companies should build their strategy around the concept that data is the new currency. Making sure you have the right storage, backup and recovery processes in place is as critical as a healthy P&L or successful long-term business plan. 

Enterprise Software Forum: What is the biggest storage hardware mistake you see enterprises making?

Pendekanti: A frequent blind spot for enterprises is not considering the total cost of ownership, or TCO, advantage of deploying HDDs. From small to large deployments, all options in storage should be weighed against the prime use case and total economics, including power, density, performance, and more. 

Enterprise Software Forum: What are some current trends in the storage hardware market that are promising?

Pendekanti: The single-most important trend is the explosion of data creation in our modern world. Yet, we only store a mere fraction of what we create. The videos and pictures we take, the movies we stream, the data points our smart cars and smart cities create — everything needs a place to be stored at some point if it is to be cherished, analyzed, utilized, monetized, etc. 

Enterprise Software Forum: What are the biggest factors that are driving change in storage hardware?

Pendekanti: While storage hardware has been evolving since its inception, we must pick up the pace at which we innovate. According to IDC, we will create more than 2x the data in the next five years than we have created since the advent of digital storage. This explosion of data, and the need for our customers to store it at scale, is driving the change that is changing the market of storage hardware.

Enterprise Software Forum: How has storage hardware changed during your time in the market?

Pendekanti: Beyond the substantial increase in storage capacity, we have also seen the advent of tiered storage — the categorization of how fast data needs to be accessed — from hot, to warm, to cold storage. While new technologies are being introduced, some of the technology from the past is still being utilized within different tiers. For example, you may have heard “tape is dead” or “the HDD is dead” in the past decade. These are far from dead — they have simply found a very secure position within the tiering of storage that our customers look at when architecting the exact storage solution for their needs.

Enterprise Software Forum: Where do you predict the storage hardware market will be 5 or 10 years from now?

Pendekanti: We will see new storage tiers and services being introduced. Hard drives will be significantly larger with capacities in excess of 50 TB becoming the norm. I expect the exabyte total addressable market (TAM), and subsequently the storage hardware market, to grow at over 30% CAGR.  

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Personnel in storage hardware

Enterprise Software Forum: What is one storage hardware technology your team wants storage professionals to know?

Pendekanti: We want storage professionals to understand all there is to the hard disk drive’s encompassing media, recording technologies, and the applicable mechanical elements. These technologies by themselves are impressive — put them together, and it continues to represent the most significant development we’ve made for storing data at scale. 

Enterprise Software Forum: If you could give one piece of advice to a storage hardware professional in the beginning of their career, what would it be?

Pendekanti: At the beginning of your career, work to understand all the nuances for deploying and managing storage devices at scale. Understanding these basics of storage will help you find the best TCO possible with the highest level of reliability for your deployment.

Enterprise Software Forum: With the shortage of tech talent, how is your team finding and retaining professionals to work in storage hardware?

Pendekanti: We’re working with universities to harness the talent of young professionals pursuing their education across a multitude of disciplines, such as computer science, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, material science, and more. Sharing our road map of exponential growth in the storage industry helps build the excitement, and once here, we support our talent by providing the right training and mentorship to learn and grow. We have always benefited from this exciting industry, helping us with attracting incoming new college graduates, while simultaneously providing rewarding careers for our colleagues who have been here for 30 years or more.

Enterprise Software Forum: For the greatest business impact, what should storage hardware professionals be focusing on most in their roles?

Pendekanti: There are two crucial areas to focus on. First, focus on how customers are uniquely dealing with the growth in data to provide applicable supporting products and technologies. Second, adapt. As new services and tiers are being introduced, keep your storage architecture malleable, so you can continue to benefit from the relentless innovation in storage technology.

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Emma Crockett
Emma Crockett
Emma Crockett is a writer for Enterprise Storage Forum and Datamation based in Nashville, Tennessee. She writes research-based articles about data science and data storage. When she is not writing, she is searching for the best lattes in Nashville and playing with her dog, Dante.

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