If you look up ‘sea change’ you will find that it is a profound and notable transformation. We are in the midst of a sea change with regards to storage. There are two aspects to this change. One is simple – the move to flash storage from spinning disks and the second has to do with the players involved and the perpetual game of who is in first place.
If you haven’t noticed, PC vendors have been replacing spinning disks with SSDs. This has been happening for awhile and users for the most part really like it. The hint there, is that they like it because they like the performance. The only downside has been the capacity. Laptop vendors have been usually replacing the spinning disks with lower capacity SSDs, and this should be the second hint. SSDs have had higher costs and cost more per GB.
Let’s step over to what has been happening in enterprise storage. Last year – there was no real HDS, EMC, NetApp or Skyera all-flash array. So it was surprising to me that when a Gartner report came out that tagged EMC as #2 in the flash array market – it was to put it mildly, quite an accomplishment. EMC had only their XtremSW Cache product in 2012. Now, since March 5 of this year, EMC has executed a product revolution which has seen a whole family of new flash-based products that were announced. Hitachi has also joined in with a speedy all-flash array. NetApp also brought out an all-flash array in mid-February of this year. Skyera launched skyHawk this year and pre-announced what could be a game-changing array dubbed skyEagle. There are others that launched new all-flash storage systems – SolidFire delivering 3.4 PB SSD-based storage system aimed at the Cloud. Nimbus Data has recently delivered 48TB in 2U, it is a new and extremely well-engineered array that is fully redundant, has non-disruptive upgrades, has a full set of storage features such as de-duplication, compression, thin provisioning and replication. The list continues. In the process, whereas last year’s discussion was about IOPS and low latency characteristics, the arrival of many flash storage arrays that provide those benefits has moved the discussion to one of storage features and software-define storage. In any case, all the major storage vendors have bolted toward flash and a number of new flash storage array vendors have arrived. All of this describes the first sea change. Traditional spinning disk vendors moving toward flash and more generally storage itself moving toward flash. However, it also describes a second sea change – whoever was in the market last year faces a large armada of new all-flash competitors. Some of them are the giants – EMC, NetApp and Hitachi. Some of them are smaller but extremely agile and are producing complete flash products with storage features and compelling price-performance advantages.
Odds are the next Gartner Report will look very different from the last one.
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