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The storage industry has seen dramatic shifts in the past few years with the massive explosion of unstructured data and the emergence of open hybrid cloud deployments. And, this trend is expected to continue for several years.

Looking through a storage crystal ball, here are our top five predictions for 2013. Should these predictions come true, not only will the landscape of the IT industry change, but more importantly, innovation will happen at the pace customers need and not at the pace vendors dictate.

Prediction #1 – Storage Silos Come Crashing Down!

Today, IT is forced to react to the onslaught of data by creating storage silos, each with its own IT operations model. Traditionally, there is a silo for block data, a silo for file data, a silo for object data, and so on. This reactive approach is not only increasing the capex for storage but also creating a huge impact on-going operational expenses – different management tools, different provisioning tools, different skill sets. We predict this will start to change in 2013 with the emergence of storage solutions that provide a unified approach to procuring, provisioning, and managing enterprise data – solutions that are agnostic to the type of data, such as files, objects, blocks, and semi-structured or unstructured data. By implementing these solutions, organizations will start to realize huge benefits, both in reduced expenses and increased service levels to their end user constituents.

Prediction #2 – Storage Software will Eat Storage Hardware for Lunch!

To build on what Marc Andreessen, leader of the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, said about software in a recent CNET article, the rapid pace of innovation at the storage software layer is likely to fast outpace the innovation on the hardware arena. Today, software innovation is held captive by the pace of hardware innovation since the largest vendors often package their offerings as a hardware offering – monolithic proprietary hardware with a software layer that cannot be decoupled. We predict this will change in 2013 as a result of two pronounced trends – rapid commoditization and standardization at the hardware level combined with increased intelligence at the software layer. The confluence of these trends will enable customers to enjoy the benefits of volume economics of industry standard hardware without compromising on the scalability, flexibility, and reliability that intelligent storage software brings to the table. Vendors will continue to demonstrate how an intelligent software layer working seamlessly with industry standard hardware servers can handle stringent enterprise storage requirements without compromising on cost and performance.

Prediction #3 – Open Source Storage Software will Eat Proprietary Storage Software for Dinner!

The requirements and demands for a unified approach to managing storage created by new enterprise workloads will require a different approach by storage software vendors – one that is based on community-driven innovation. Community-driven innovation is the hallmark of a true open source approach to solving enterprise storage problems. For example, the emerging area of big data alone has more than 100 distinct open source ‘big data’ projects with thousands of software developers contributing code, enhancing features, and increasing stability. It is hard to match this pace of innovation when software is being written within a vendor’s four walls. We predict enterprises will gravitate toward the open source approach to solving real-world storage challenges. Projects including GlusterFS, ceph, Apache Hadoop, and MongoDB already see an uptick in community involvement and enterprise adoption. And, we anticipate this trend will continue unabated in 2013.

Prediction #4 – The Role of a Storage Administrator will Change Dramatically with the Advent of Open Hybrid Cloud Deployments.

Today, the role of a typical storage administrator is focused on ensuring that the storage silos in the data center are running as close to optimal as possible to support the needs of the business. The storage administrator works in conjunction with the system administrators and network administrators to ensure that the three distinct pieces of the infrastructure (compute, network, and storage) are aligned. Open hybrid cloud is likely to change that. Since the private cloud enables a level of abstraction and the public cloud dictates that the storage is deployed outside the realm of control, storage administrators will now be responsible for a continuous storage platform, one that predicates a model where storage is without any boundaries. For a traditional storage administrator to be successful in this new paradigm, they will evolve into cloud administrators and get more involved with the overall design and implementation of a business infrastructure. This requires them to become more proficient in other aspects of the infrastructure including virtualization, networking, and business continuity planning. Deployment of solutions, such as OpenStack, can force these changes in roles.

Prediction # 5 – Big Data and Small Storage is the Perfect Recipe for Success!

Once big data projects move from proof-of-concept phase, organizations will realize that just because its big data, it doesn’t necessarily mean big storage. The basic tenets of big data reference architectures recommend a scale out storage infrastructure consisting of a collection of servers with small storage as opposed to a large monolithic scale up storage infrastructure. For example, if a big data project entails a petabyte of storage, it can be far more efficient to have 100 nodes of ‘small storage’ as opposed to two large nodes of ‘big storage.’ Flexibility, nimbleness, and adaptability will be the keys to success in big data storage.

Scale-out small storage solutions can demonstrate quick success for enterprises to build upon, including:

* the storage foundation to allow massive scaling and reduced costs within big data environments;
* a new methodology for information storage and access that will enable new business solutions;
* an extensible storage architecture to enable users to innovate at the speed of their business; and
* one standard, open way to implement storage for private, public, and hybrid clouds.

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