This post originally appeared on Virtual-Strategy Magazine and is authored by Scott Davis, CTO at Infinio, a GreenPages partner. It does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of GreenPages Technology Solutions.
It’s that time of year for CTO predictions. The rate of innovation and disruption across IT is certainly accelerating, providing ample opportunities for comment. Although there is a significant amount of disruptive change going on across many disciplines, I wanted to primarily focus on storage observations for 2016.
Emergence of Storage-class Memory
Toward the end of 2016, we’ll see the initial emergence of a technology that I believe will become the successor to flash. This new storage technology (storage class memory, or SCM) will fundamentally change today’s storage industry just as dramatically as flash changed the hard drive industry. Intel/Micron calls one version 3D XPoint and HP/SanDisk have joined forces for another variant.
SCM is persistent memory technology – 1,000 times faster than flash, 1,000 times more resilient, and unlike flash, it delivers symmetric read/write performance. SCM devices connect to memory slots in a server and they are mapped and accessed similarly to memory, although they are slightly slower. Unlike previous generations of storage technology, SCM devices can be addressed atomically at either the byte level or block-level granularity. Operating systems will likely expose them as either very fast block storage devices formatted by traditional file systems and databases (for compatibility) or as direct memory mapped “files” for next-generation applications. Hypervisors will likely expose them as new, specially named and isolated SCM regions for use by applications running inside the guest operating system (OS).
I expect that SCM will provide unprecedented storage performance, upend the database/file system structures we’ve grown accustomed to, and further drive the trend towards server-side storage processing, shaking up everything from storage economics to application design.
VSAN becomes an Alternative to HCI
Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is a sales strategy wrapped around a software-defined storage architecture that has garnered much attention in the past few years. HCI offerings comprise integrated hardware and software “building blocks” bundled and sold together as a single entity. The hardware is typically a server with direct attached storage disks and PCI-e flash cards. All the software needed to run virtual workloads is packaged as well, including hypervisor, systems management, configuration tools and virtual networking. Perhaps most relevant to our part of the industry, there is always a software-defined storage (SDS) stack bundled with HCI offerings that virtualizes the disks and flash hardware into a virtual storage array while providing storage management capabilities. This SDS stack delivers all the storage services to the virtual machines.
In VMware’s EVO:Rail offering, VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) is this integrated storage stack. Now battle-tested and rich with enterprise features, VSAN will become more prevalent in the datacenter. Organizations attracted to cost-effective, high-performance server-side software-defined storage solutions no longer have to embrace the one-size-fits-all hyperconverged infrastructure sales strategy along with it. They will increasingly choose the more customizable VSAN-based solutions, rather than prepackaged HCI offerings, particularly for sophisticated enterprise data center use cases.
Flash Continues to Complement Traditional Spinning Drives, Not Replace Them
While the all-flash array market continues to grow in size, and flash decreases in price, the reality of flash production is that the industry does not have the manufacturing capacity necessary to enable flash to supplant hard disk drives. A recent Register article quoted Samsung and Gartner data that suggested that by 2020, the NAND Flash industry could produce 253 exabytes (EB), which is three times the current manufacturing capacity at a cost of approximately $23 billion.
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