Four reasons why the sky isn’t falling, but storage quadrants are collapsing.

Sixty Second Synopsis:

The average customer achieves 40% or less utilisation from their data storage infrastructure. Increasing efficiencies increases utilisation which, in turn, decreases costs. Next generation storage systems such as grid/scale out and unified represent the natural evolution of the four storage quadrants aimed at reducing costs in both the immediate and for the future.

People love a good story, and humans have been telling stories in one form or another for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  Indeed, there has been much talk in business consultancy and related journals regarding the ‘art of storytelling’ to help disseminate what can be difficult and often technically complicated topics and ideas to a wide audience.

One of the most well known and widely used methods of storytelling is that of film.  I love a good film …the story and music, the escapism of two hours in a darkened theatre, hot buttered popcorn …. mmm popcorn! …. and I’m sure I’m not alone in having a top ten list of my favourite all time films.

Depending upon what day of the week you ask me, taking the number one slot in my top ten will either be Zulu or Lawrence of Arabia.  Okay, perhaps I have a top eleven list but let’s not let facts get in the way of a good story!  Pun intended, but I digress.

Near the head of my top ten is a film called Searching For Bobby Fischer, released in the UK as Innocent Moves.  The film tells the story of a young chess prodigy and the lengths he and his family go in their trying to understand him and he them all whilst being supportive of and developing his unique gift.  I won’t give the plot or ending away, and would seriously recommend you spending the time to watch the film as it is an excellent object lesson in how we raise and prepare our children for the world in my opinion.  I will, however, share with you my favourite line from the film … ‘The game is already over. You just don’t see it yet.’

What’s this got to do with Data Storage & Protection?

In my career I have never seen the data storage consolidate nor move more quickly than it has in the past 24 months.  Indeed, what were the four storage quadrants …Enterprise, Modular, NAS, and Archive …have rapidly converged and consolidated to leave with what are effectively two categories …Grid/Scale Out and Unified.

But why?  At a high level, the Four Quadrants of storage developed and evolved as they sought to solve different customer issues however none of the quadrants represents a ‘perfect’ solution and all suffer from a serious reduction in utilisation as they attempt to scale.  Given we are creating more data every three days as we did in all of 2003, it isn’t difficult to see why customers need efficient data storage systems which can easily scale to solve utilisation and cost challenges.

I’m not going to go into the Four Quadrants in any detail as I’ve developed masterclasses which cover this from soup to nuts in two hours.  I have also developed separate two hour masterclasses for Grid Storage and Unified Storage.  Please contact me if you’d like me to run a private masterclass(es) session for you and/or your organisation.

1. Customers want …and need … efficient arrays.  What were once products are now features.

Start-up companies such as Data Domain [dedupe] acquired by EMC, Diligent [dedupe] acquired by IBM, Storewize [data compression] acquired by IBM, Compellent [automated storage tiering], XiV [grid] acquired by IBM …the list goes on and on …have either been acquired or seen their ‘unique’ products rolled into existing vendor products as is the case with FAST [Fully Automated Storage Tiering] in EMC products.

2.  The four storage quadrants are collapsing to leave us with two primary solution variants; grid/scale out and unified.

The simple equation is that increased utilisation equals decreased costs, and we’ve seen Grid/Scale Out storage [e.g. EMC VMAX, IBM XiV] evolve from the Enterprise and Modular quadrants to address the ability to scale at cost as well as Unified storage [e.g. NetApp] evolve from the Modular/NAS/Archive quadrants where customers don’t necessarily require massive scale out capabilities but would like a ‘Swiss Army knife’ approach with iSCSI, fibre channel, NAS, dedupe, compression, et al all included in the same storage product.  This is also an effort by the vendors to reduce their R&D costs by delivering fewer but much more efficient storage products.

3. The storage technologies which underpin VDC and the federated service provider model … or private/public cloud hybrid, if you prefer …are waypoints and not the final destination.

At the moment we treat data as either ‘block’ …I’ll whack the data on some block storage systems like EMC VMAX or IBM XiV …or ‘file’ …I’ll whack the data on some file based storage like NetApp or EMC Celerra …but we’re rapidly heading towards data being treated as an object.  In other words, a true convergence of block and file based storage where we treat the data as an individual object as opposed to ‘speeds and feeds’.   However, we need ways in which to optimise our datacentre and storage environments today which reduce costs as well ad provide a bridge to the future.  VDC and the federated service provider model is absolutely that bridge.

4.  The infrastructure to support data will continue to evolve, but data as a construct will not.

Many IT departments truly believe that the barbarians are at the gates with their users seeking to access data whenever and however they wish with ‘unapproved’ mobile devices such as Apple iPads, Google Android phones, et al.   Egads and heavens to Murgatroyd!  I understand the reasons for IT to try and provide high levels of support by restricting usage, but putting up walls by device to restrict data access is a very 1990s method of physical access control and, frankly, a fool’s game.  Nature …and users …always find a way around such barriers if they feel they can be more productive by providing and acquiring their own access devices.  But you can protect the data, and that is where the security and restrictions should be placed in my opinion.  Indeed, we will see geotagging of data and with access and geolocation restrictions based on the data objects …for example, you can view the data in the UK but not when you leave our sunny clime …but I’ll save this for another blog post.  Equally, there may even be a case here for organisations to move what were CapEx costs …laptops, PCs, mobile phones …off the books by allowing employees to acquire and use their own devices.


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One Response to “Four reasons why the sky isn’t falling, but storage quadrants are collapsing.”

  1. Chad Sakac Says:

    I think these are some insightful comments, Matthew.

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