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What’s in store: Five storage trends to look out for in 2020

(Image credit: Image Credit: Scanrail1 / Shutterstock)

We’ve entered a new year and a new decade, so it seems an appropriate time to take stock and consider the key themes in the tech and storage industry for the months ahead. We know people are already conscious of the rise and eventual ubiquity of the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) or smart technologies; and there’s a lot of discussion around the network connectivity and compute resource they will all need. But there’s also a lot happening with the third element of what goes on ‘under the hood’ to deliver these innovations – data storage. Efficient and effective data infrastructure is key to enterprise success and longevity, while scale is essential to monetise and leverage data.

Increases in areal density in both traditional air and helium-filled hard disk drives (HDDs) mean that the latest drives have capacities up to 16TB, with 18TB conventional magnetic recording (CMR) and 20TB shingled magnetic recording (SMR) HDDs currently sampling, and available later this year.  Over the next five years, SMR adoption is expected to grow significantly, enabling more efficient workloads and innovations such as Zoned Storage. Areal density growth is key to delivering higher capacities with attractive total cost of ownership (TCO) at scale, and SMR innovation will contribute to this. Meanwhile, the value that flash presents for workloads such as analytics and AI has increased the use of all-flash storage systems.  Ongoing advancements in 3D NAND technology contribute to higher density in more compact packages, thanks to both vertical layer and lateral scaling combined with increased bit count.

A key driver in unleashing the power of flash memory in SSD is the move from SATA to NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express). This high-performance protocol is used in servers, storage appliances and storage area network fabrics, to drastically reduce latency, accelerating application workloads.

In addition to HDD and Flash/SSD innovation, let’s take a look at some other overarching trends we see shaping the evolution of the storage industry in 2020 and beyond.

The number of localised data centres will increase, alongside the emergence of new architectures

Although cloud adoption is in no way slowing, there are two factors which drive the continued growth of localised data centres. The first is data regulatory requirement. As multiple countries seek to establish data localisation laws, organisations may need to keep their data closer in order to understand and mitigate potential security and privacy risks associated with data retention. The second is cloud repatriation. Larger enterprises are looking to own their data and rent the cloud for better costs and controls, including security features, latency, and data access, increasing the need for localised data storage capability.

Further to that, new data centre architectures will emerge to manage the growing volume and variety of data. In the Zettabyte-scale Era, data infrastructure needs to be re-architected to address the growing scale and complexity of workloads, applications and AI/IoT datasets. These constructs will involve multiple tiers of workload-optimised storage as well as new approaches to system software. Zoned Storage, an open-source initiative, will help enable customers to take advantage of zone block management across both SMR HDDs and ZNS SSDs for sequentially-written, read-centric workloads. Its unified approach allows the management of naturally serialised data at scale, while enabling predictable performance.

AI standardisation to make edge deployments simple

Analytics are a definitive competitive advantage. There is just too much company data that can be collected, processed, and then turned into insights. With this, the new connected world has more of the workloads moving to the edge, increasing the need to ensure these very small edge devices have the capability to run and analyse increasingly large amounts of data.  

Due to the small footprint and rapid deployment needs, there will need to be more standardisation and interoperability. This will take the form of more open architecture, open standards, open messaging and more. 

Expect the tiering of data leveraging devices, media and fabric innovation to expand not contract

There will continue to be strong exabyte growth in read-centric applications in the data centre, driving a diverse set of performance, capacity and cost-efficiency demands on storage tiers, as enterprises deliver increasingly differentiated services on their data infrastructure. To meet these demands, data centre architectures will continue advancing toward a model where data storage solutions will be consistently provisioned and accessed over fabrics, with the underlying storage platforms and devices delivering to a variety of service level agreements (SLAs), aligned with specific application needs. 

We expect to expand the deployment of SSD to handle Fast Data and at the same time, the relentless demand for exabytes of cost-effective, scalable storage will continue to drive strong growth in capacity enterprise HDD to store Big Data. 

Fabrics to unify storage sharing

With the exponential growth in data, along with the increasing diversity of workflows and demands on IT infrastructure, businesses need to increase speed, agility and time-to-value for their customers. Ethernet fabrics are becoming the “Universal Backplane” of the data centre, unifying how storage is shared, composed and managed at scale to meet the demands of increasingly varied applications and workloads. Composable infrastructure is a new architectural approach that uses NVMe-over-Fabric to dramatically improve compute and storage utilisation, performance, and agility in the data centre. 

It allows storage to be disaggregated from compute, enabling applications to share a common pool of storage capacity and data can then easily be shared between applications, or needed capacity can be dynamically allocated to an application regardless of location. In 2020, we’ll see increasing adoption of composable, disaggregated storage solutions that efficiently scale over Ethernet fabrics and deliver the full performance potential of NVMe devices to diverse data centre applications.

HDDs will continue to thrive in the data centre environment

While many have predicted the demise of HDDs for years, there’s simply no substitute for capacity-enterprise HDDs, which consistently meet the growing data demands and deliver total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) value at scale for hyperscale data centres. There is continued strong demand from the Capacity Enterprise HDD market with estimated exabyte shipments for the industry to grow 36 per cent annually between CY 2018 and CY 2023, according to the TRENDFOCUS: Cloud, Hyperscale, and Enterprise Storage Service. In addition, IDC expects that by 2023, 103 ZB of data will be created per year with 12 ZB stored - approximately 60 per cent of the stored data will be at the core/edge data centre. Driven by this insatiable growth of data – by humans and machines – this mainstay technology will see new data placement technologies, higher areal densities, mechanical innovation, intelligent data storage, and new materials innovations. This will enable new capacity points and TCO at scale for the foreseeable future.

Given their instrumental role in the housing and managing business-critical data, HDD and Flash storage technology are one of the most important foundations for successful and secure business operations, regardless of the size of the organisation, or its type or the industry. By investing in a comprehensive data storage infrastructure, businesses will find themselves in a much stronger position to be able to facilitate data growth in the year ahead and beyond, allaying any fears of failing to build a framework to support the running of a modern, technological business.

Darragh O'Toole, product marketing Western Digital