As I write this post, 2012 is already 6.3% completed.  So, for the remaining 93.7% of the year, what can we expect the storage themes to be?  What will companies be focused on and what can we expect from the vendors?

Data Reduction

The recent flooding in Thailand has had everyone on high alert about the rise in disk prices, see this Register article as a good example.  We are normally used to seeing disk prices decline over time, however the start of this year may see exactly the opposite.  Suddenly all those data optimisation (aka clean up) tasks you didn’t think were worth it, now come back into view as they may start to become cost effective.  Although the “do more with less” mantra keeps getting pushed year after year, in reality, cleaning up and keeping a storage environment tidy does have to be considered in terms of return on effort.  There’s not a lot of financial gain to be had from spending time recovering unused resources when you are only 50% utilised.  With configurations, perhaps it’s easy to be on top of everything; not so when you start getting into multi-petabytes.  Expect to see more push on the optimisation techniques – data de-duplication being the most likely new contender for the storage admin’s hard-pressed time.  It’s worth remembering though that thin provisioning still hasn’t gained the reach it was expected to, or should have, if vendor surveys are to be believed.  Maybe a focus on the basics is a good thing.

Big Data

I don’t like it when marketing departments start coining IT terminology and “Big Data” is one of them.  I expect to see more companies pushing the benefits of using all those “unloved terabytes of information you didn’t think you needed” by turning them into “intellectual property” ripe for exploitation, but in reality I think the benefits are overplayed.  If there’s an opportunity to use data in clever ways, then organisations will do it, irrespective of the technology available.  There’s also not a lot of commercial sense in putting all your data into an expensive Data Warehouse on the expectation that someone will think of something useful to do with it sometime in the future.  Perhaps that’s what Big Data should be renamed; Something, Someone, Sometime.

Niche Technologies

I think we will see more niche technologies in the coming year.  We have Violin, Pure Storage, SolidFire, Nutanix, Virsto and many others producing technology that fit specific requirements, whether it be high performance, utility or hybrid virtualisation & storage products.  Expect to see more of these and potentially the first acquisition by one of the big storage vendors.  There’s also an outside chance we’ll see a bigger take up in virtual storage arrays.  VMware’s VSA has brought credibility to that marketplace and there are already many established players like Nexenta.

Push to The Cloud

No summary would be complete without a discussion on Cloud.  We have pure plays in the cloud space but there are many hybrid offerings, such as Nasuni (currently under review in the TSA Lab), StorSimple, CTERA and others.  These companies are interesting as they start to make cloud storage a viable option by reducing the latency with local caching.  I think these kinds of products will act as a gateway for many organisations to reduce their footprint and dependence on managing existing “legacy” filer technologies.

I’d be interested to hear everyone’s opinion on their views for 2012, so feel free to comment, good or bad, but always courteous.

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Written by Chris Evans

With 30+ years in IT, Chris has worked on everything from mainframe to open platforms, Windows and more. During that time, he has focused on storage, developed software and even co-founded a music company in the late 1990s. These days it's all about analysis, advice and consultancy.