Storage technology, if industry visionaries are correct, will enable magical advancements in analytics, big data, and the Internet of Things–but there’s another story to tell by going the other direction to see what these applications can do for the storage.
It’s not a one-way street. Storage arrays typically grow bigger and faster on a fairly consistent basis, but in the past few years they’ve also started growing smarter.
There is plenty of precedent. There has long been intelligence inside individual drives. More recently, machine learning started coming to data center racks, not unlike the smart refrigerators found at Best Buy. Storage management concepts such as deduplication and tiered backup are also constantly becoming more automated.
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The storage industry will get an artificial intelligence jolt from Hitachi Vantara in the next few months. Vantara is a recent merger of the Japanese conglomerate’s storage, analytics, and IoT divisions, and is unique compared to Dell-EMC, HP, and IBM because of its focus on industrial competitors such as General Electric (from where Vantara recently poached its new chief strategy officer). More compelling, though, is Vantara’s other new hire–former IBM Watson vice president John Murphy.
In storage, software intelligence will probably start with more mundane concerns such as capacity planning, what will break, and when it will break, Vantara senior vice president Iri Trashanski said. It falls under the categories of application performance management and infrastructure performance management, he emphasized. There is already an AI focus in the IoT division’s Lumada software. “If you build it correctly it can be used across groups,” Trashanski noted.
Trashanski declined to elaborate on Vantara’s specific plans for this winter, however senior vice president of engineering and product management Rich Rogers commented about how AI could apply to storage generally.
“This is a pretty broad topic. AI can be applied to a number of areas in storage,” Rogers said by email. “On the operational side, we are exploring automation root cause analysis and resolution tasks. Right now if storage breaks in the middle of the night then someone is woken up to [find the] root cause and resolve. We think that the system should be able to learn how to resolve these challenges on its own,” he wrote. “There are some other futuristic pieces here around how AI & robotics could be used to install, manage, and maintain physical storage equipment,” such as a data center robot that could physically install and swap hardware, he added.
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Critics point to IBM Watson, which entered the public consciousness on Jeopardy and recently came under fire for its shortcomings in healthcare, where the engineering may not match the marketing. “At the end of the day it’s all about what outcomes you bring to the customers, it’s not what you put on the TV,” Trashanski said.
Backup specialist Commvault and of course IBM are working on similar things. International Data Corp. analyst Eric Burgener said smaller players Infinidat and Pure Storage also has unique software intelligence, as did Nimble Storage, which is now owned by HP.