I could write a novel about what’s wrong with enterprise storage today, but I’ll spare you all what would be a really dull read. Let me sum it up in two words: Storage sucks. Ok, perhaps it’s a bit more nuanced than that but not by much. Instead, it’s easier to talk about what should be the essential elements of modern storage, in light of the digital, connected and increasingly cloud-driven world we live in.
Here are some terms we should all come to associate with modern storage: Elastic, adaptable, agile, dynamic and self-managing. Plenty of people have claimed they are moving storage this way, but in my view to date it’s all been marketing baloney. The difference today is that it is actually possible to transform storage into a strategic and tactical asset of an organization, thanks to ongoing advances in software, sophisticated algorithms and processing horsepower.
Modern storage has to be both agile and elastic. It needs to be able to change and adapt to your applications’ needs, and, obviously, these needs require dynamic storage. For example, you shouldn’t have to know how much you need to provision or what performance an application is going to need when you first set up your storage platform. If you look at much of the new service infrastructure in the cloud today, you’re never required to say what you need tomorrow, are you? You just determine what you need today and everything is flexible and it adapts. That to me makes sense.
Tied to this is the need for modern storage to be application-compatible. This is essential for storage today as more applications become composite applications. For instance, if you use a mobile app, on the back end it has some sort of transactional database that logs you in, there are some analytics and an SQL database, too, and it might be delivering up files and folders that are in object storage. Because of this, storage needs to be adaptable and open to all these types of connectivity instead of captured in prehistoric data silos. Today, storage needs to be completely flexible around data types as well as accept and work with both modern and legacy applications.
Modern storage should also be able to manage data throughout its lifecycle. When you’re on Facebook, how often do you dig around until you find a picture that is four years old? Not all that often, right? So, why would Facebook store a photo you uploaded four years ago in flash? Ideally, they would have built in data-tiering and lifecycle policies that as the data ages, it’s moved to cheaper forms of storage media. Just like water, there are different “qualities” of storage, and quality costs money. You can have good water, polluted water, potable water or filtered water. I’m using this analogy because there are varying costs of storage media and various methodologies, which in a lot of today’s systems aren’t scalable. Modern storage should tie all of this data together over their lifecycle so that the stuff that deserves the performance gets stored in flash and the rest goes on the cheapest storage media you have.
I’m not suggesting that every enterprise go out and wholesale rip and replace their platforms. That’s unrealistic. What I am saying is that the smart organizations will figure out ways to take divisions or parts of the business or application delivery and implement a step-like move to this new world of modern enterprise storage. We know there is a big change coming in modern storage, and it’s partly because we hope to drive it. Yes, this is a coming sea change in storage, but it’s such a big one that organizations should be fearful of not having a foot in this new land.