10 storage trends to watch in 2016

This year will bring a number of changes to how enterprises store data--some big and some small. Mary Shacklett discusses the most prominent developments.

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Now that we've turned the page into 2016, we're looking at a number of storage trends. Data center managers will be paying attention to these trends, which will influence corporate strategy and purchasing for storage in 2016.

1: Cold storage/archiving

Data archiving and cold storage that can keep pace with the continuing barrage of structured and unstructured data that enterprises need to store is a relatively mundane process--but a necessary one. Cold storage provides an economical means of safekeeping for data that is seldom accessed. The data is stored on cheap, slow-moving disks, which keeps data center storage media expenses down. In the past, planning for archival storage was a secondary priority for enterprises at best. This won't be the case in 2016.

2: Storage convergence on the hybrid cloud

After a decade of cloud technology, companies still have difficulty executing hybrid data storage that can encompass public cloud data, private cloud data, and data center data. Especially with big data projects, organizations need to aggregate this data and move it from place to place. In 2016, storage and IT vendors will continue to make progress in producing methodologies that enable companies to move data between various types of cloud and data center repositories easily--and with the requisite governance. The hybrid cloud market is growing at an annual compound rate of 29.22% over the period of 2014 to 2019. Part of this transition to a hybrid environment will involve tapping storage repositories that span a variety of cloud-based and data center platforms.

3: Tiered storage automation

More enterprise data centers will adopt greater levels of automation in tiered storage methodologies that automatically write and retrieve frequently accessed data to rapid media like flash/solid state disks, but that write and store seldom accessed data to cheap and much slower hard drives and tape drives. Many data center storage administrators have done this data allocation by hand in the past--but 2016 will be the year that much of this data storage process is written into rulesets that drive automated data storage processes.

4: Flash workstations with thin client concept

Look for more desktop and laptop computers to come equipped with flash storage in place of hard drives--and for more of these corporate workstations to become thin clients, with data centrally stored in the cloud or in the data center.

5: Falling flash prices

By mid-2015, there were indications that the price of flash/solid state storage had fallen as much as 75% over the previous 18 months. This trend has opened the wallets of data centers to insert more flash and solid state memory into their storage systems.

6: A reinvented hard drive

Hard drives have a remarkably long tenure in enterprise data centers and they aren't going away soon. In 2016, Intel will deliver new hard drive technology in its Optane drives, which use a new way to store digital data that can operate as much as 1,000 times as fast as the flash memory technology inside hard drives, memory sticks, and mobile devices today. These Optane drives use a 3D Xpoint chip, which can hold data even when the hard drive is powered down.

7: Data as an asset on the corporate balance sheet

Active discussions are already occurring among industry analysts and regulators regarding whether data should be made an asset on corporate balance sheets. If this happens, corporate thinking about data from the CEO on down will also change, and the internal perceptions about the importance of storage will rise. This could prompt more corporate investment into higher end forms of storage and automated storage management systems.

8: End-to-end storage management

The problem with tiered, automated storage management in the past has been that every storage vendor has its own proprietary technology and gear. From the storage manager's perspective, at some point there has to be a collective picture of how all of the enterprise's storage is working together. We won't reach a totally integrated and holistic storage management reality in 2016, but during the year, vendors will continue to work toward open API standards and a "plug-in" concept that will one day enable a more complete view of all storage assets and how they are performing.

9: New chips for enhanced solid state disk performance

FPGA chips (field programmable gate arrays) are technically part of the processing world, but vendors are finding ways to use new chip styles and fabrics to improve big data processing, even when the data center is using an x86 computer fronted to the processing. FPGA processing enables an organization to process large chunks of data faster, thereby cutting the mean time to decision from data analytics performed on the data. FPGA technology does this by using an old hard drive technique, striping, on arrays of solid state drives. The goal of data striping is to split a body of data into blocks and then spread them across multiple storage devices for more rapid access--in this case, solid state drives. This turbo-charges solid state drive performance and enables even more rapid processing of high demand data.

10: The future of tape

Prognosticators have been signaling the death of tape as a storage medium for years, but they are not even close. If last year was any indicator, more companies will be storing video files, especially in currently "hot" areas, like video surveillance for building security. Maintaining logs of these video files over time is still an ideal fit for tape.,

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