Those who have attended my recent talks on Enterprise Storage Disruptions have heard me describe a new storage landscape comprising several new solution architectures. Gartner has just reinforced my view by publishing a paper recognizing a new category they call I/O Optimization.1
Hybrid arrays containing both flash and disk are now mainstream. All the traditional enterprise storage vendors have them, as well as a variety of newer startups such as Nimble, Tintri, Tegile, and Nexenta, to name a few notables.
The other emerging storage categories that I talk about each have unique use cases that are driving gains in market share. I predict a healthy market for all three architectures.
- All-Flash-Arrays. This category consists of mostly traditional scale-up storage appliances that are built entirely of flash components. They deliver excellent performance within the confines of a dedicated storage appliance. Pure Storage and Solidfire are well-known startups in the AFA market, but EMC also has a compelling offering with their XtremIO line. However, Flash in these arrays is premium priced capacity and still costs several orders of magnitude more per GB compared to traditional mechanical drives, and this gap will continue for the foreseeable future. I mentioned in my 2015 predictions posting that mechanical SMR and cloud storage are currently in the .02-.03 per GB range while according to Gartner, the cost per GB for the leading AFA arrays vendors are still in the $14-$15 range. Deduplication and compression are equally applicable to both technologies. But for workloads where pure speed for shared storage is an absolute requirement, these solutions are a great option.
- Hyper-converged/software-defined storage. I’ve discussed these at length last year on my blog. Hyper-converged infrastructure solutions typically include a scale-out software-based storage stack component executing on the server alongside applications. Then, to create a virtual storage platform, these architectures knit together both direct-attached flash and direct-attached mechanical disks virtualized and controlled by their storage stack. As opposed to pure Software-Defined Storage, Hyper-converged vendors also encompass an integrated sales strategy where the customer purchases a server “building block” consisting of CPU, memory, network and storage hardware and integrated software. The startup leaders in this space include Nutanix and Simplivity, while VMware and its various hardware partners are competing with the VSAN-based EVO:RAIL technology offerings. Particularly for SMB/branch office deployments, the hyper-converged approach brings a simplicity of deployment that many organizations are looking for.
- I/O Optimization. Which brings me to what Gartner has just recognized as a unique category, I/O Optimization. This category includes traditional single-server caching software as well as more sophisticated distributed scale-out platforms that decouple I/O performance and its scaling from the storage capacity tier. This decoupled approach delivers server-side scale-out performance that can be paired with any capacity architecture, most commonly traditional dedicated, shared storage arrays. Shared arrays can be more space-efficient, since multi-copy data techniques such as distributed RAID, replication and erasure encoding are typically not required to meet availability SLAs. And this gap between performance delivered from the server-side versus the storage-side will only increase with newer DIMM-based flash and other emerging persistent memory technologies designed to be co-located with the applications using them. There are two premier startups pioneering this emerging category that have embraced the decoupling of storage performance and storage capacity delivering a scale-out performance platform.
These are my company, Infinio Systems and PernixData. The uniqueness of Infinio’s offering is delivering a content-based, deduplicated architecture that makes optimum use of performance resources such as memory and flash. Both of these companies are featured prominently in the Gartner I/O Optimization analysis paper. Also, please read about Infinio’s inclusion in Gartner’s Cool Vendors 2015 report.2
There you have it, the next three strategic storage architectures that datacenters will be built on going forward.
- Gartner “Technology Overview for I/O Optimization Software“ by Arun Chandrasekaran, Dave Russell, Stanley Zaffos. March 18, 2015
- Gartner “Cool Vendors in Storage Technologies, 2015” by Dave Russell, Arun Chandrasekaran, Sheila Childs, Garth Landers, Alan Dayley, Stanley Zaffos, George Weiss, John Monroe, Joe Unsworth. April 9, 2015
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