Will Software ‘Define’ the Storage Industry in 2016?

According to IDC’s most recently published numbers, Q3 2015 saw total capacity shipments up 37% on the same quarter last year to 30.3 exabytes. It’s safe to assume that 2016 will see big data get even bigger, and companies in need of affordable, scalable ways of storing it. So which storage technology will have the greatest impact on how we keep data next year?

Flash vendors have made big market gains this year after cutting prices – it’s the closest to traditional hardware based storage but much faster and denser. Once seen as prohibitively expensive, the cost of flash memory per gigabyte has dropped by 30% over the last four years. 2015 has seen the introduction of new Flash systems like 3D NAND and Triple Level Cell Flash that substantially improve capacity and performance and don’t degrade as fast as traditional Flash is, on average,  still more expensive per usable gigabyte than other storage hardware.

2015 was a very big year for cloud technology, with it being much more widely understood and trusted by consumers and companies alike. IDC estimated that last year over 30% of storage arrays, servers, and ethernet switches were sold to cloud-based businesses. The advantages over on-premise hardware are numerous – you’re only paying for the space you’re actually using, your data is always stored using the best possible solutions because your provider will make sure they have it, and there’s no need for anything to be maintained in-house by trained IT staff. Smaller cloud providers have been getting more business too, with start-ups using technology like OpenStack, offering private clouds that can be tailor built to your specifications, as a very attractive alternative to the big name providers, who you have to trust to control and protect your data, which has become a big concern for many after the multiple data privacy headlines we’ve seen this year.

Software Defined Storage is the big, new storage approach and after many SDS start-ups being created and funded in 2015, will 2016 be the year that they start to take over the market? It’s an appealing proposition – hyperscaling while simultaneously cutting costs, enabling you to store more data without the need for pre-emptive prediction-based hardware purchases, less downtime (with some providers even advertising zero downtime) and disruption. Some people are still cautious about SDS because it’s nowhere near as widely understood, and there’s some debate about what ‘true’ Software Defined Storage actually is, with critics arguing that most SDS is just a cloud/virtualization by another name. Research and Markets have predicted the SDS market will grow to $6.2 billion by 2019 – a long way to go from the $1.4 billion it was at in 2014, but personally I think this time next year we’ll be looking back on a huge take up of SDS and the industry will be well on the way to that figure.

Which storage technology are you most excited by right now? Where will your valuable data be kept in 2016?

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