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The future of enterprise storage

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Businesses are seeing rapid changes driven by a variety of factors. What they all have in common is a need to build IT systems that help them to manage challenges, in order to achieve better competitiveness and profitability.
Bob Plumridge, EMEA chief technology officer at Hitachi Data Systems, told delegates to today’s Hitachi Innovation Forum in Johannesburg that storage is the central theme in many of the new technologies and directions that users are seeing.

“Our core message for years has been one platform for all data. And that’s for everything: structured or unstructured. The storage underneath remains one storage for all of that.”

However, Plumridge says, if a company were starting with a blank piece of paper today they probably wouldn’t build the systems that they have in place. Not that there’s anything wrong with what consumers have, but it has grown from historical requirements and products.

What customers will see in the future is that the different platforms will start to consolidate, with the only difference being scalability.

“We will make it one architecture and one micro-code,” he says. This will help to alleviate issues around maintenance and management, and around support and service. Moving further, users will see a convergence of servers and storage.

“The first step has been taken with UCP, but going forward there will be an identical underlying processor and the application of the device will be up to the user. The difference will be in the micro-code. So in the future you will see huge flexibility in the way processing units are used.”

Also popular is the flash SSD market, and the way it has taken off in the last few months.

“In a short space of time we’ve gone from 200Gb to 1,6Tb modules – and these will go to 3,2Tb in a short time. You have never seen growth in capacity like this on disk drives. There will probably be a few more iterations like this in the next couple of years.
“And the prices of these devices are also coming down. The cost of SSD is going to match HDDs within about four years.”

This will squeeze the high performance disk drive market, as companies start to use more flash devices in the enterprise.

SSD in servers will also grow, Plumridge says, and these are showing great results. However, it is not part of the tiered storage infrastructure, so Plumridge believes these will start to become the tier one storage as part of an enterprise storage infrastructure.

“Obviously the technology to deliver this is quite complicated, but I believe this is where the technology is going.”

The fact is, Plumridge says, that users have moved the bottom. This used to be the disk drives, which were the slowest part of the infrastructure. The mechanical delay goes away with SSD, so the bottom in some instances is in the fibre channel network.

For this reason, users will start to see the bottleneck disappear as they put more data closer to the server, eliminating bottlenecks in the fibre channel network.