Q&A: Keeping pace with the changing storage industry

There is a lot of confusion and hype in the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCIS) and software-defined storage (SDS) markets, both of which are growing significantly.

We recently spoke to Bob Davis, vice president of marketing at Atlantis Computing, to shed more light on current HCIs and SDS landscapes. The full interview can be found below.

  1. You recently released your Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCIS) and Software-Defined Storage (SDS) 2016 Survey, what were the key findings?

The HCIS and SDS survey collected data from 1,267 respondents from 53 countries across more than 24 verticals. The key findings were that 71 per cent of respondents have either already adopted or are planning to adopt a HCIS or SDS solution for their IT infrastructure, proving that this is a fast growing market. In contrast, the use of hard disk storage is clearly dying with 19 per cent of respondents intending to decommission their all-disk system.

Another key finding is the use of SDS and HCIS to support remote office and branch office (ROBO) environments. HCIS is becoming more prevalent in ROBO environments because integrated appliances are designed to be simple to use, centrally managed, cost-effective and highly available, which are important attributes for locations with few or no IT resources. The results showed that 9 per cent of respondents have one site whereas 15 per cent manage more than 50 remote sites.

Underpinning these environments can be a major challenge using traditional storage as many ROBO locations are not a “one size fits all”. HCIS is positioned to help ROBO organisations by allowing them to deploy infrastructure in small, consistent building blocks that can be easily and centrally managed.

  1. Were you surprised by the results?

The survey results have made it very clear that perhaps one of the most serious technology challenges facing organisations is growth of data. The results show that on average most organisations are seeing a 10 - 30 per cent annual data growth rate. However, for a number of organisations, this number is even higher. Finding a storage solution that can scale easily and inexpensively is absolutely critical to maintaining a reasonable level of expense and application availability.

Another surprising result was that education trails behind in all-flash deployments whereas the healthcare industry is ahead of the pack in HCIS deployments. Financial services on the other hand typically require high performance yet according to the study 66 per cent still currently use disk-based storage, which is slower than all-flash storage. There is a need for all flash alternatives to improve performance for managing data growth.

  1. What do the findings say about the current state of the industry?

The reality is IT budgets are shrinking yet the demands on IT are continuously increasing. This survey brings to light that traditional storage can no longer keep up with the demands of workloads. Solutions that stabilise data centre costs and are simple to manage are key to success. All-flash SDS and HCIS can support any workload and some with options for snapshots, replication and stretch clustering balance performance with high availability and disaster recovery across both primary and remote secondary locations. HCIS and SDS have the capability to support both large and small deployment scenarios and either can support centralised or distributed data centres.

  1. HCIS and SDS are both fast-changing markets, how hard is it for companies to keep up and adapt?

What we’re seeing today is the intersection of the need for more application performance combined with simplicity of management. Given people’s concerns around the costs and complexity of traditional storage, it would make sense that those who have adopted SDS and HCIS technologies have done so to offset costs and complexity and become more agile in the data centre. The incredible rate of change in the data centre is requiring IT organisations to deploy both software-centric and appliance-based solutions in order to deliver value to their business. One size won’t fit all. It’s that simple. .

  1. What benefits can HCIS and SDS bring to organisations?

SDS and HCIS technologies are taking the data centre by storm. Half of all respondents with a HCIS or SDS deployment stated that these solutions are faster than their disk based systems, with 14 per cent saying that they work just as fast as an all-flash storage array. These more agile storage options are holding their own and highlight the fact that SDS and HCIS together provide high performance, scalability and availability with ease of management.

  1. What storage trends do you think we'll see in 2016 and beyond?

This survey asked respondents about their future plans for storage and the responses painted a pretty bleak future for disk based storage. Nearly 1 in 5 respondents stated that they will fully decommission their disk based storage in the next two to three years. The primary gainers in this timeframe will be all-flash and hybrid storage arrays but more than 35 per cent of respondents also said they will expand their use of SDS and HCIS.

This is hardly surprising as the price of flash has been plummeting for quite some time and is expected to hit the price equivalence with disk in the next few years. Finance, healthcare and large companies all say they will deploy more SDS and HCI solutions in the future. It’s an exciting time for the storage industry.

Image source: Shutterstock/Ralwel