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December, 2015:

2016 and Beyond…

Predictions are a mug’s game…the trick is to keep them as non-specific as possible and not name names…here are mine!

What is the future for storage in the Enterprise? 2016 is going to pan out to be an ‘interesting’ year; there’s company integrations and mergers to complete with more to come so I hear; cascading acquisitions seem likely as well.

There will IPOs; they will be ‘interesting’! People are looking for exits, especially from the flash market. A market that looks increasingly crowded with little to really tell between the players.

Every storage vendor is going to struggle with maintaining growth; technology changes has meant that it is likely that just to maintain current revenues that twice as much capacity is going to have to be shipped. Yet data efficiency improvements from thin-provisioning to compression to dedupe mean that customers are storing more data on less capacity.

Add in the normal year-on-year decline of the price of storage, this is a very challenging place.

Larger storage customers are becoming more mecurial about what they buy; storage administration has got so easy that changing storage vendors is not the big deal it used to be. The primary value these days of having some dedicated storage bods is that they should be pretty comfortable with any storage put in front of them.

As much as vendors like to think that we all get very excited by their latest bell or whistle; I’m afraid that we don’t any more. Does it make my job easier; can I continue to more with less or best case the same.

Data volumes do continue to grow but the amount of traditional primary data growth has slowed somewhat in my experience.

Data from instrumentation is a real growth area but much of this is transitory; collect, analyse, archive/delete…and as people start to see an ever increasing amount of money flowing to companies like Splunk expect some sharp intakes of breath.

Object Storage will continue to under-perform but probably less so. S3 will continue its rise as the protocol/API of choice for native object. Many file-stores will become object at the back-end but with traditional SMB/NFS front-ends. However, sync and share will make inroads formally into the enterprise space; products like Dropbox Enterprise will have an impact there.

Vendors will continue to wash their products in ‘Software Defined’ colours; customers will remain unimpressed. Open-source storage offerings will grow and cause more challenges in the market. Some vendors might decide to open-source some of their products; expect at least one large company to take this route and be accused of abandonware. And watch everyone try to change their strategy to match this.

An interesting year for many…so with that, I shall be off and wrap presents!

May you all have a Happy Christmas, a prosperous New Year and may your bits never rot!!

Waffle to burn?

NetApp have finally bitten the bullet and bought an AFA vendor; plumping for the technology driven Solidfire as opposed to some of the marketing driven competitors in the space.

At less than a billion dollars; it appears to be a very good deal for NetApp and perhaps with an ever decreasing number of suitors, it is a good deal for Solidfire and avoids the long march to IPO.

Obviously the whole deal will be painted as complementary to NetApp’s current product set but many will hope that Solidfire will long-term supplant the long-in-the-tooth OnTap.¬†NetApp need to swallow their pride and need to move on from the past.

It can’t do this immediately; it needs work and it is not yet a solution for unstructured data. But putting data-services on top of it should not be a massive task as long as that is what NetApp decide to do and they don’t decide to try to integrate it with OnTap. NetApp can’t afford another decade of engineering faff! Funnily enough though , FC is seen as a relatively weak-point for Solidfire; where have we heard the before?

This could be as big a deal for them as EMC’s acquisition of Data General in 1999; the Clariion business brought some great engineers and a business that turned into a cash-cow for them. It allowed them to move into a different space and gave them options; it probably saved the company whilst they were messing up the Symmetrix line.

And whilst EMC/Dell are integrating themselves; NetApp have a decent opportunity to steal a march on their arch-rivals; especially if they take a light touch and continue to allow Solidfire to act like an engineering-led start-up.

I still have my doubts whether a storage-focused behemoth can actually survive long-term as data-centres change and buying behaviours change. But for the time being, NetApp have an interesting product again.

Interesting times for friends at both companies…

p.s anyone want to buy a pair of Solidfire socks?

Object Lessons?

I was hoping that one of the things that I might be able to write about after HPE Discover was that HPE finally had a great solution for Scale-Out storage; either NAS or Object.

There had been hints that something was coming; yes, HPe had done work with Cleversafe and Scality for Object Storage but the hints were that they were doing something of their own. And with IBM having taken Cleversafe into their loving bosom, HPE are the only big player without their own object platform.

Turns out however that HPE’s big announcement was their ongoing partnership with Scality; now Scality is a good object platform but there are bits that need work as is the case with Cleversafe and the others.

I don’t think that I am the only one is left disappointed by the announcement and the not the only person who was thinking…why didn’t they just buy Scality?

Are HPE still thinking of doing their own thing? Well, it’s gone very quiet and there’s some sheepish looking people about and some annoyed HPErs wondering when they will get their story straight.

Like HPE’s Cloud strategy; confusion seems to reign.

If there is any take-away from the first HPE Discover….it seems that HPE are discovering slowly and the map that is being revealed has more in common with the Mappa Mundi than an Ordinance Survey map…vaguely right, bits missing and centralised on the wrong thing.

What Next For HPE Storage?

So I’m sitting here in my hotel room before day 2 of HPE Discover* thinking about some of the discussions that have happened on the previous days/evenings. It seems that even vendors are now coming round to the idea that Enterprise Storage is pretty much dead or at least in it’s current form.

What do we mean by dead?

Well, we don’t mean that it is going away anytime soon; like the mainframe, it’ll continue to haunt the data-centres of the future. But unlike the coming zombie apocalypse; this zombie will not take over the world.

However, there is little to no growth opportunity for the traditional Enterprise Storage Array; year on year, we probably won’t see a decline in the amount of storage shipped in this form but it’s proportion of the total shipped storage will decline massively.

In fact, the vendors themselves have only to blame themselves; modern Enterprise arrays are that much more efficient; thin provisioning, compression and data reduction technologies such as deduplication are having the impact that to maintain revenues, the vendors are having to ship twice as much storage.

It’s a great time to be a customer of Enterprise Storage; the price will continue to fall and it’s becoming so simple that swapping one vendor for another is no longer a massive deal. Our continued push for simplified interfaces and click-driven provisioning is beginning to drive procurement behaviours that mean that it is no longer a massive RFx process to change vendors; pence per gigabyte or IOP is the only measure of importance.

And it’s a scary time for many vendors who don’t have a story to tell about what comes next and how they mitigate for this change in market. Enterprise Storage has been a cash-cow; massive margins and annual increases in revenues are pretty much in decline.

So HPE; what comes next in your world because wandering round Discover; I can see an awful lot of servers filled with disks but I don’t see the next storage solution from you guys. Maybe I’ll see it today?¬†

(disclosure: HP have paid for my accommodation and entrance to the event but I’m under no obligation to write anything)