The Storage (R)Evolution or The Storage Superstorm?

The storage market is changing, and it isn’t changing slowly. While traditional storage vendors still dominate the revenue and units sold market share, IDC concludes that direct sales to hyperscale (cloud scale, rack scale) service providers are dominating sales of storage. Hyperscale is the ability of an architecture to scale appropriately as increased demand is added to the system; hyperscale datacenters are the type run by Facebook, Amazon, and Google. 

Quote to remember:

“…cloud-based storage, integrated systems, software-defined storage, and flash-optimized storage systems <are selling> at the expense of traditional external arrays.”

In my opinion, this is like the leading edge of a thunderstorm supercell or a “Sandy” Superstorm – the changes that are behind this trend will be tornadoes of upheaval in the datacenter technology business. As cloud services implementations accelerate and software defined storage services proliferate, the impact will be felt not only in the storage market, but also in the server and networking markets. These changes will be reflected in how solutions providers, consulting firms, and VAR/DVARs will help the commercial market solve their technology and business challenges.

EMC is still number one by a very large margin, although down 4% year over year. HP is up nearly 9%; IBM and NetApp are way down. EMC overall (with NAS) has 32.4% revenue share; NetApp number 2 with 12.3%. Even with the apparent domination of the storage vendor market, it is obvious to EMC, their investors, and storage analysts everywhere (including yours truly) that the handwriting on the wall says they must adapt or become irrelevant. The list of great technology firms that didn’t adapt is long, even in New England alone. Digital Equipment Corporation is just one example.

Is EMC next? Not if the leadership team has anything to say about it. The recent announcements by VMware (EMC majority owned) at VMworld 2015 show not only the renewed emphasis on hybrid cloud services but also the intensive focus on software defined storage initiatives enabling the storage stack to be centrally managed within the vSphere Hypervisor. VMware vSphere APIs for IO Filtering are focused on enabling third party data services, such as replication, as part of vSphere Storage Policy-Based Management, the framework for software-defined storage services in vSphere.

EMC is clearly doubling down on the move to Hybrid Clouds with their Federation EMC Hybrid Cloud, as well as all the VMware vCloud Air initiatives. GreenPages is exploring and advising their customers on ways to develop a hybrid cloud strategy, and this includes engaging the EMC FEHC team as well as the VMware vCloud Air­ solution. EMC isn’t the only traditional disk array vendor to explore a cloud strategy, but it seems to be much further along than the others.

Software Defined Storage is the technology to keep an eye on. DataCore and FalconStor software dominated this space before it was even called SDS by default – there were no other SDS solutions out there. EMC came back in a big way with ViPR, arguably the most advanced “true” software defined storage solution in the market place now. Some of the other software-only vendors surging in this space, where software manages advanced data services across different arrays, like provisioning, deduplication, tiering, replication and snapshots, include Nexenta, Hedvig and others. Vendor SDS is a valid share of the market and is enabled by storage virtualization solutions by IBM, NetApp and others. Once “virtualized,” the vendor software enables cross platform data services. Other software-enabled platforms for advanced storage solutions include Coho Data and Pivot3. Hyperconverged solutions such as VSAN, SimpliVity or Nutanix offer more options to new datacenter solutions that don’t include a traditional storage array. “Tier 2” storage platforms such as Nexsan can benefit from this surge because, while the hardware platforms are solid and well-built, those companies haven’t invested as much or as long in the add-on software services that NetApp (for example) has. With advanced SDS solutions in place, this tier of storage can step up with a more “commodity” priced solution for advanced storage solutions.

In addition to the Hybrid Cloud diversification strategy, EMC and other traditional storage manufacturers are keeping a wary eye on the non-traditional vendors such as Nimble Storage, which is offering innovative and easy-to-use alternatives to the core EMC market. There are also a myriad of startups developing new storage services such as Coho, Rubrik, Nexenta, CleverSafe and others. The All Flash Array market is exploding with advanced solutions made possible by the growing maturity of the flash technology and the proliferation of new software designed to leverage the uniqueness of flash storage. Pure Storage grabbed early market share, followed by XtremIO (EMC), but SolidFire, Nexenta, Coho and Kaminario have developed competitive solutions that range from service provider oriented products to software defined storage services leveraging commodity flash storage.


What does this coming superstorm of change mean to you, your company, and your data center strategy? It means that when you are developing a strategic plan for your storage refreshes or datacenter refreshes, you have more options than ever to reduce total cost of ownership, add advanced data services such as disaster recovery or integrated backups, and replace parts (or the whole) of your datacenter storage, server and networking stacks. Contact us today to continue this discussion and see where it leads you. 






By Randy Weis, Principal Architect