Analyzing Top 5 Storage and Data Center tech predictions made in 2016

Last year in January I published “Top 5 Storage and Data Center tech predictions for 2016” predicting the possible happenings for 2016 in Storage world. Let’s relook at the predictions and analyze how much of it has happened.

Magnetic storage disk numbers will decline in the enterprise space.

Dell EMC declared the year of 2016 as “Year of All Flash” (YoAF) on February 29th, 2016, a month later after the post was written. During the entire span of 2016, I witnessed the steps that Dell EMC took to make 2016 the YoAF. The company’s biggest announcements in 2016 were Unity All Flash Array and VMAX All Flash Array. They also announced all flash versions of existing products such as Isilon, VxRAIL, and others. There was a similar situation at other storage vendors as well. This indirectly drove enterprise SSD shipments up. AnandTech reports, Q2 2016 SSD shipments up 41.2% and in Q1 it was up 32.7% YoY. A report published in November 2016 by TRENDFOCUS shows a great increase in SSD adoption. Following is an excerpt from TRENDFOCUS report,

“In the enterprise SSD world, PCIe units leaped a spectacular 101% from CQ2 ‘16, mainly due to emerging demand from hyperscale customers. Both SATA and SAS posted growth with 6% and 14% increases”

Another report published by TRENDFOCUS in August 2016 says,

“On the enterprise SSD side, although SATA SSDs still dominate both hyperscale and system OEMs from a unit volume perspective (3.2 of the 4.07 million units shipped in CQ2 ’16), SAS SSDs saw a tremendous jump in capacity shipped in CQ2 ’16. Unit volume rose only 5.4%, but exabytes shipped increased a whopping 100.5% from the previous quarter. The move to higher capacities (like 3.84TB and even a few 15TB) is real. The storage networking companies taking SAS SSD solutions have embraced these higher capacity devices (helped by declining prices) at a surprising rate.” 

In summary, during Q2 SATA SSD’s shipped more and in Q3 PCIe and SAS SSD’s overtook SATA in growth. This lead to a serious NAND drain. El Reg reports this with a funny headline – “What the Dell? NAND flash drought hits Texan monster – sources. Thrice during the year, TRENDMICRO reported the NAND shortage. Shortage for NAND caused SSD prices to go high in Q4 2016.

Enterprise flash drives with more storage space will appear and the cost will come down.

Enterprise SSD heavyweights such as Samsung, Toshiba and others introduced larger capacity TLC drives in 2016. Samsung’s 15.36 TLC NAND device is the largest I have seen on production in a storage array. There were other TLC drives with capacity ranging from 3TB to 15TB. Most of these TLC SSD’s are 1 WPD (Write per day) devices. However, 3D XPoint is still not seen in enterprise storage arrays. The price did come down during the beginning of 2016 but certain NAND devices price went high due to the demand.

Adoption of NVMe and fabrics will kick start in the enterprise space

While it is true that use of NVMe is widely used in high-performance computing space, it has not made its way to the most common datacenters yet. The reason is NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF) has not gained popularity as thought. Dennis Martin, president and founder of Demartek LLC advises, Nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) is coming to a storage system near you soon, and IT pros need to become familiar with the protocol. With DSSD, Dell EMC entered this space and it will be very much interesting to see the advancements in this space. We are looking at companies adopting developer-centric infrastructure design. These new protocols may get popular with such design. Interestingly, it is the PC world which has embraced NVMe sooner that enterprise. Samsung, Toshiba, MyDigitalSSD, Plextor, and others sell ultra-fast NVMe SSD’s. NVMe SSDs are the fastest SSD that are currently being sold.

Software defined storage solutions will grow as the cloud adoption increases

There is a serious competition between Dell EMC ScaleIO and VMware VSAN even though both belong to Dell technologies, these two products are eating away the competition in SDS. Mainly SSD growth is fueled by the rise of cloud technology such as OpenStack and HCI appliances. Dell EMC beefed up its HCI portfolio in the year 2016 with VxRAIL and VxRACK. VxRAIL runs entirely on VMware VSAN and VxRACK runs on ScaleIO or VSAN. Another iteration of VxRACK runs OpenStack with ScaleIO. These advancements fueled SDS growth. The report predicts that global SDS market to grow at a CAGR of 31.62% during the period 2016-2020.

Enterprises will realize that cloud is not an alternative to traditional data center.

IMO the year of 2015 was the most important time for OpenStack. Everybody knew what OpenStack is and some conscious customers went all in on OpenStack. made news in 2016, “Snapdeal launches its own cloud – Snapdeal Cirrus“. During the mid of 2015 Snapdeal realized that public cloud stops being cost effective after a certain scale. So they went on to build their own hybrid cloud – Cirrus. Cost is not the only factor that drove them towards hybrid cloud lane, the need of massive compute power to fuel flash sales where millions of people buy on were also a reason. Cirrus has more than 100,000 cores, 500TB of memory, 16PB of Block and Object storage entirely built on Ceph, SDN, spans 3 data centers and so on. Infrastructure like this makes sense for a company which runs each of its tech stacks at a large scale. Developer centric IT will only look at cloud-like infrastructure because it makes sense for them. As predicted earlier, traditional storage & compute tech will continue to exist in its own space.

Also published on Medium.