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The future of data storage: Storage vendors' predictions

It seems as if every vendor has a mystic on staff who can predict the future of the storage industry. Here's what they think we can look forward to.

It seems as if every vendor has a mystic on its staff who can see into the future of data storage. Here are a few of the predictions they think are in store for us.

I was pretty pleased with myself after writing my New Year's five predictions column, but before I could pat myself on the back a second time, I noticed my email inbox was full of messages with subject lines touting five, 10 or even 15 predictions for 2014. I'm not so naïve as to think I had somehow cornered the prediction market, but it looks like everybody is buffing up their crystal ball and spewing out prognostications about the future of data storage like there's no tomorrow.

Who are all these storage seers purporting to have some kind of sixth sense that lets them see into the data center future? As I sorted through the emails I realized they were from vendors, every last one of them. And all their predictions just coincidentally suggested that in the future -- the very near future, they hope -- everyone will have a desperate need for their products. I didn't come across a single prediction that said, "Next year, smart storage managers will realize our system does less and costs more, and the next time you see our marketing team they'll be selling tacos from a truck."

My favorites are the ones that have survey data to back them up. They ask a question like, "Are you absolutely, indisputably, you-bet-your-job, 100% certain that your disaster recovery plan will recover every last scrap of data your company owns in, say, just a few seconds?" Of course, 75% of the survey respondents will say no (the other 25% are delusional), which will lead to headlines telling us that three-quarters of the world's data is at risk. But fear not, the surveying vendor's disaster recovery product is ready to swoop in and rescue the world.

So, here are some of my favorites from this year's batch of vendor predictions. And to protect those who innocently prognosticate, I won't name the vendors responsible for these gems.

40 GigE will go mainstream. Wow! They're really sticking their neck out with this one, huh? Well, I'm going to go them one better and predict that Ethernet will get even faster than 40 Gig and then that will go mainstream.

Organizations will seek vendors that can combine technologies like various flash drive types with automated tiering to get all-flash performance at economics equal to disk prices today. Hmm ... I wonder if that came from a storage vendor that doesn't have an all-flash array in its portfolio?

Reducing the total cost of ownership will become table stakes to play in the storage market. Now that prediction is a real relief. For all these years storage managers have just ignored the total cost of ownership of the gear they buy. But now, finally, people will care about how much money they spend and how they spend it.

As stored data volumes continue to see exponential growth, organizations will recognize the value of and opportunity for monetizing data. Won't they have to? Since total cost of ownership is important now, wouldn't storage managers want to do something with all that data they're storing? Maybe they could just call it big data and then nobody will ask any more questions.

In 2014, companies will move beyond the "I have a cloud strategy" to "I have a multi-cloud strategy." And some of them will move even further to "I have data I can't access in multiple cloud companies that have gone belly up."

Online data repositories will grow to sizes that were once inconceivable. Wasn't everything inconceivable at one time? I mean when we were chatting on princess phones with rotary dials, weren't smartphones with more computing power than NASA's man-on-the-moon mission just a wee bit inconceivable? Additional points off on this one for being way too obvious.

In 2014 we'll see organizations finally implement soft-ware-defined architectures to achieve continued flexibility and control. That's easy to say because software-defined is so hard to define. So maybe if something works better we can say it's software-defined and if it doesn't we can just blame the hardware.

The false start of software-defined everything. Wait a second; that other company said we're going to achieve flexibility and control but this one is talking about a "false start." Is this one of those glass half-full, glass half-empty situations, and isn't it annoying when people inject reality into their predictions? The company went on to say that "the shift toward software-defined solutions represents an evolution, not a revolution," which I suppose means that someday someone will actually be able to define software-defined (but don't hold your breath).

A shift will begin toward an increase in adoption of high-capacity, enterprise tape drive technology. Really? And the earth will reverse the direction it's spinning in and the sun will rise in the West. We're going to keep an eye on this one.

This last prediction is mine: As usual, storage managers will have to cut through the clutter of predictions -- including mine -- and any other nonsense that stands between them and a good purchasing decision.

About the author:
Rich Castagna is editorial director of TechTarget's Storage Media Group.

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Great way to start off a Monday morning Rich. Especilly like the plan to call everything Software Defined and blame the hardware! At least that way we'll all be able to stay employed whether we're on one or both sides of that one.
Good point, BMartin1! I guess I should point out that it was a software-defined column. :-) And my final prediction--this will all happen again in about 7 months! Thanks for your comments.

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