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Storage is in desperate need of reinvention: SDx is the way forwards

ITProPortal is currently in wonderful Amsterdam, attending the third edition of the Open SDx summit (formerly the open source summit), hosted by Nexenta. The place is packed with journalists, customers and industry figureheads from the likes of SanDisk, Dell and Western Digital.

Kicking off proceedings here this morning was Nexenta CEO Tarkan Maner, a man who at first sight seems more rockstar/entertainer than storage guru, alongside 451 Research's Simon Robinson and Donna Taylor of IDC.

Between Maner's quips and one-liners - "We need shrinks" and "We are like freshly-squeezed orange juice" being two picks of the bunch - the main theme of the opening session was that SDx (software-defined everything) is not just thoughtless hype.

"We believe this is happening," proclaimed Maner. "Being software-defined is important. We need to liberate our systems. Hardware doesn't have to be the inhibitor of innovation."

He clearly sees this particular area as a crucial one in the world of enterprise technology, identifying 2014-2017 as the years that will see its expansion. On top of this, he believes Europe to be much more open to software-defined solutions than anywhere else in the world.

"Europe is much more open to new ideas and innovation," said Maner. "This space is booming."

This is a rather interesting opinion. In the second edition of our Tech News Weekly podcast, we came to the conclusion that European consumers seem to react to new technologies with a lot more caution than those based in the US. Perhaps the enterprise storage arena is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Robinson and Taylor were keen to add their support to Maner's message.

"The whole delivery of IT is really changing," said Robinson, who insists that storage seems to have stood still for the last 20 years, screaming out for somebody to reinvent it. He thinks that the outlook is beginning to look much brighter now but the minority is yet to take notice. "While many service providers are now embracing open source and innovation, some are still struggling with legacy systems."

Taylor agreed, describing this year as a major "tipping point" for adoption rates. "[SDx] is not just a buzzword," she said. However, whereas the financial, professional services and manufacturing sectors have apparently reacted well to the emergence of software-defined storage, Taylor conceded that government and educational bodies have been slow on their feet.

This seems to be quite a widespread issue. Earlier on this year, we chatted with 6DG's Campbell Williams, who told us that the UK government's limited use of the "potentially transformative" G-Cloud framework is testament to the public sector's lack of knowledge of useful new technologies.

While a firm believer that SDx cannot be ignored, Robinson described it as "the Marmite of the industry," clarifying that people "either love it or hate it." According to Robinson, wavers of the proverbial SDx flag still have some way to go in convincing people that this isn't simply another case of the Emperor's new clothes.