Many of the predictions about the future of storage and data protection concern the cloud, software-defined architectures, different protocols, and the latest batch of fancy storage applications.
But underpinning it all is a hardware foundation without which none of it would be possible.
Here are some of the top predictions for 2023 related to storage hardware:
1. Flash and Tape, Not Disk
Disk was the future — about 20 years ago. Tape was supposed to be dead. All enterprises needed to do was move everything onto disk, and they would live happily ever after.
It worked well for a few years but eventually ran out of steam. Big data, unstructured data, and a general data explosion rendered the “store everything on disk” philosophy unworkable.
Suddenly tape began to grab back some of the ground it lost to disk. Then flash storage costs dropped to the point where disk began to lose business at both ends of the spectrum. Hence, Eric Bassier, senior director of product and technical marketing at Quantum, believes that the future of data storage infrastructure is based on flash and tape.
Why? Many emerging applications require consistent low-latency performance and high IOPs. Disk-based systems cannot keep up with the needs of demanding applications. Therefore, Bassier said, organizations will seek to consolidate high-performance workloads on modern software-defined flash platforms that take advantage of the latest flash and networking protocols, like Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) and Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA).
In addition, massive unstructured data growth and new uses for this data are driving organizations to keep data for many years, decades and longer. However, Bassier said disk takes up too much power and is not ideally suited for storing data for the long-term.
“Magnetic LTO tape is lower cost, more reliable, has increased cyber resiliency, and is the greener option,” Bassier said.
“Disk is getting squeezed out — the future of high-performance primary storage is software-defined flash. The future of long-term data storage will be predominantly software-defined tape, until cutting-edge archival technologies, like DNA storage become commercially viable. These factors, along with a heightened corporate focus on environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) initiatives, are driving organizations to look to modernize their infrastructure with software-defined flash and tape.”
See more: 5 Top Flash Storage Trends
See more: 5 Top Tape Storage Trends
2. Cost Optimization Drives On-Premises Storage
Given the current economic outlook, companies will focus on cost optimization and savings in 2023, said Anand Babu Periasamy, co-founder and CEO, MinIO.
Following multiple years of 30% to 50% growth in the major public clouds, Periasamy expects the pace to slow as more companies look to optimize their workloads and costs.
“This will usher in an age of cloud neutrality — where the operating model and economics are on equal footing with physical location,” Periasamy said.
“Growth was previously driven by optimizing for flexibility and elasticity, but the VC-funded wealth-transfer to the big three is over for now, and for predictable workloads, they will repatriate or introduce other clouds to create cost competitiveness. Cost optimization will be the number one priority in an uncertain economic environment.”
3. Object Storage Dominance
For a while it was the storage area network (SAN) versus network-attached storage (NAS). Then hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) became popular. These days, object storage looks like it has gained prominence for both on-site and cloud storage.
“In a multicloud world, object storage is primary storage,” said Periasamy with MinIO.
He explained his reasoning. Right now, databases are converging on object storage as their primary storage solution. This is driven by performance, scalability, and open table formats. One key advantage in the rise of open table formats, such as Iceberg, Hudi, and Delta, is that they allow for multiple databases and analytics engines to coexist. This, in turn, creates the requirement to run anywhere — something that modern object storage is well suited for.
The early evidence is powerful. Both Snowflake and Microsoft will release external tables functionality in late 2023. Now companies will be able to leverage object storage for any database without ever needing to move those objects directly into the database — they can query in place.
See more: 5 Top Cloud Object Storage Trends
4. Tough Times for Appliances
Some vendors hung their hats on appliances being the future of storage and backup. Dump everything in a preconfigured box that does one or a few functions and can just be plugged in on the data center floor.
But Periasamy with MinIO believes the trends noted above mean that times are going to get very tough for appliance vendors.
Vendor pricing will be under a microscope in 2023 and that is more bad news for appliance vendors. Many have struggled with the growth of the cloud operating model and containerization. Commodity hardware is becoming the architecture of choice for large-scale deployments for performance, price, and the flexibility to choose a best-of-breed software provider.
“Further, because there is no integration lock-in, customers have choice and that optionality drives superior pricing,” Periasamy said.
“As the whole industry shifts to be more open and multicloud, appliance vendors will come under tremendous pressure.”
5. Tape Cheaper Than Cloud?
The argument has long been that cloud storage is much cheaper than disk or tape storage. For large volumes, there are few who would argue that disk can compete with the cloud.
But tape is mounting a compelling argument that it is a better place for high-volume, rarely accessed archive storage.
Rich Gadomski, head of tape evangelism at Fujifilm Recording Media USA, said that
once capacity needs for backup grow beyond 200 TB, the economics of tape make more sense. He cited a study by Brad Johns Consulting that well-managed cloud storage of one PB over five years might cost around $250,000. Using LTO tape as a comparison, the firm came up with the price tag of $60,000.
“Over a five-year term, the cloud can no longer claim to be the inexpensive choice,” Gadomski said.
“And merely by the fact that the data is stored online, cloud backups are always potentially exposed to infiltration, infection, and ransom by cybercriminals. All it takes is the access credentials of one user, and the data can be compromised.”
See more: 5 Top Trends in Tape Storage