Storage trends for 2012

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The exponential growth of data will force businesses to change the ways in which they manage their data, says Inana Nkanza, country manager of EMC SA.

At the same time, Grant Rau, business development manager at Kingston SA, believes USB 3.0 will become an industry standard this year, and that adoption of solid state drives (SSDs) will reach a tipping point.

Similarly, Steven Ambrose, MD of Strategy Worx, says smaller, faster and solid state-based storage will become mainstream.

According to Nkanza, the volume of data available exceeds the capacity of traditional storage systems. He explains that, a few years ago, people referred to gigabytes, while today, they refer to terabytes as small systems, noting that petabyte systems are becoming the norm. Nkanza, quoting the IDC, says the world's volume of information is more than doubling every two years.

“I believe 2012 is the year for organisations to take a long, hard look at how they approach big data,” says Nkanza, adding that users will no longer be able to put all their useful information into one data warehouse. He suggests this could result in data warehouses that bring together information from multiple sources, replacing the single data warehouse model.

Deloitte defines big data as a reference to datasets whose size is beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage and process within a tolerable elapsed time. The company adds that big data sizes are constantly moving target, currently ranging from a few terabytes to many petabytes of data in a single dataset.

According to Nkanza, big data is one of the major drivers of change in the storage industry. He says that the volume, variety and velocity of data present many opportunities.

The high volume of data is forcing businesses to change the way they manage and extract value from data.

Regarding variety, he says that with the advent of big data, organisations need to make sense of many different data forms. “This makes it necessary to re-look at the entire data management strategy,” he says.

Finally, Nkanza says the velocity of data growth is exponential. “Every year, we generate ever-increasing data loads that organisations have to store, manage and analyse, while simultaneously trying to reduce their IT overheads,” he says.

SSD surge

Rau believes that, in the second half of 2012, mass adoption of SSDs will reach a tipping point. He says last year saw a steady increase in SSD sales, adding that the increased interest was primarily newly 'tech-savvy' consumers and not only tech enthusiasts.

“The value of adding an SSD to a lagging computer is now in the thoughts of many mainstream consumers,” Rau explains. He says these drives are no longer considered a premium upgrade, but are rather viewed as essential ones.

Furthermore, says Rau, the floods in Thailand will continue to affect the supply of hard disk drives. He says this will accelerate SSD demand from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and particularly from notebook manufacturers. “As the SSD continues to offer a higher return on investment for performance and durability, companies will opt for the SSD as their preferred upgrade path when upgrading or renewing their legacy systems,” suggests Rau.

Ambrose also believes the hard drive shortage will spur SSD growth. He says that the recent shortage and price increases of hard drives, as well as the growth of public cloud-based services such as Facebook and Google+, will lead to “dramatic growth in ultra-fast, lower capacity, 128GB to 512GB solid state discs”.

Ambrose also argues that lower capacity SSDs will be used for mobile storage. He says that once the speed, reliability and ruggedness of an SSD is combined with essentially unlimited cloud storage, as well as the apps that use cloud storage on smart mobile devices, lower capacity SSDs will become the mobile storage device of choice.

Devices driving demand

According to Rau, worldwide sales of tablets are predicted to jump to 326.3 million units by the end of 2015. He adds that the high-quality content being consumed on mobile devices will continue to drive storage demand. "Consumers who have tablets that do not feature card slots for extended storage are already experiencing storage limitations,” says Rau.

He suggests that memory producers, specifically in SA, will start looking at creating offerings that provide an easy way to store and access content, wirelessly.

Ambrose believes that, despite the recent spike in hard drive prices, there will be an exponential increase in desktop and laptop storage capacity in 2012. He argues that once the prices have stabilised, they will drop per megabyte of storage. “Internal and external storage devices based on spinning disk hard drives will increasingly reach multiple terabytes of storage,” he says.

“Flash memory in consumer devices, entertainment equipment and other embedded IT systems is likely to escalate,” says Nkanza. “This technology delivers a new storage tier in servers with important benefits: space, heat, performance and ruggedness.”

He adds that the availability of large amounts of memory is driving new application models. “In-memory application platforms include in-memory analytics, event processing platforms, in-memory application servers, in-memory data management and in-memory messaging.”

Cloud storage

Rau predicts that virtualisation will continue to play a key role in ensuring that cloud offerings, and the data centres hosting them, achieve optimum hardware efficiencies. “Virtual machines require sufficient memory provisioning to run stable and efficient applications, and the upcoming JEDEC standard of 1600MHz will see more 8GB capacities being purchased specifically to satisfy these requirements,” he says.

Rau also suggests that new server memory technology will be released that will allow higher memory capacity installed on servers. Moreover, he says, organisations will move away from traditional server OEMs towards more customised built-to-suit servers.

Finally, he says SSDs will gain traction in the data centre market. “This market segment has built enough trust in SSD technology to consider the replacement of existing HDDs,” he explains. “High input-output operations per second (IOPs) results means that SSDs are far more suitable for the server environment than HDDs.” He argues that the push to increase energy savings and optimise performance computing will see SSDs become a priority investment for data centres in 2012.

Need for speed

USB 3.0 will be included on the majority of new systems sold in 2012, says Rau. “Today, the average consumer is downloading high-quality content with a view to share, manipulate and enjoy,” he explains.

“The latest USB 3.0 drives have new eight-channel high-speed controllers and go up to capacities of 256GB,” says Rau. He adds that this offers consumers expanded storage as well as 10 times the transfer speeds, when compared with standard USB 2.0 devices.

“The big driver in the personal technology space is speed and form factors,” says Ambrose. He argues that smaller, faster and solid state-based storage is becoming increasingly mainstream.

Data security

According to Rau, a recent survey by the Ponemon Institute and Kingston found that many organisations are ignoring the risk of unencrypted USB drives and are not following through with appropriate USB security policies. He says organisations need to adopt more secure USB products. Moreover, he says organisations should enforce data security policies and guidelines for data outside the network.

“Secure USBs are only part of the solution,” says Rau. He says endpoint security, the introduction of best practice policies and procedures, and awareness training for staff is also essential. “All these elements are required for a successful data loss prevention strategy,” he says. “Public and private companies need to invest to prevent loss of their confidential data. Global standards, strong privacy and data protection legislations will also have to be put in place and full enforcement ensured, including holding those at fault liable.”

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