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Increasingly, enterprises use technology to differentiate their services, and that focus is driving data growth and the need for more storage.
"For organizations, managing data growth has become a perpetual challenge, especially, with the move to more digital businesses," said Scott Sinclair, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) Inc.
The need is changing market dynamics. Legacy systems, such as storage area networks (SANs) and network attached storage, are seeing minimal growth. Enterprises are investing in more modern solutions: flash storage, hyper-converged infrastructure solutions, software-defined storage and cloud.
Consequently, channel partners need to be nimble and respond accordingly in these changing times.
Coming in a flash: Storage market gains traction
Flash is gaining traction for a few reasons. Data access has become a key business driver. Companies do not want to keep their customers or employees on hold as data storage spindles twirl trying to find the record needed to complete an interaction. Flash operates at much faster speeds than traditional storage offerings.
Historically, the flash storage market faced a few barriers. Since enterprise use of flash technology has been relatively new, the management infrastructure had been lacking. But vendors have been designing better tools to monitor these systems, so enterprises feel more comfortable deploying them.
Also, the price for flash storage had been high, which limited acceptance. "Some organizations want their storage systems to run at Mach 1 speed, so they are fine paying a little extra for flash," noted Warren Nicholson, founder and CEO at Nfina Technologies., a channel partner that develops custom server and storage solutions for businesses.
But prices have been dropping in the flash storage market. "Initially, companies experience sticker shock when they look at flash, but once they get the solution up and running, it benefits them in so many ways that they love it," Sinclair said.
Hyper about storage
Hyper-converged infrastructure solutions are also gaining traction. "Businesses are looking for storage solutions that are easy to implement and hyper-converged systems fit the bill," said Cheryl Neal, vice president of data and networking at distributor Tech Data.
Cheryl Nealvice president of data and networking, Tech Data
Organizations are trying to simplify system infrastructure deployment and maintenance. Traditionally, deploying storage was a tedious, manually intensive task. Hyper-converged infrastructure solutions are built on modern software-defined storage architectures. Here, the software invokes automation: the automatic completion of a series of tasks, such as allocating more resources to an application. These features free up staff time, so IT administrators spend more time on strategic initiatives, like mapping out new application requirements, and less on getting systems up and keeping them running.
However, keeping up with rapid storage growth can be a challenge with hyper-converged infrastructure solutions. In some cases, the hardware components are bundled en masse. If more storage is needed, a company needs to add more server and network resources as well. If a company had a SAN, it could add more storage without impacting other devices.
Cloud computing impacts the storage market
Cloud is also gaining traction in the storage area. Cloud often starts out being used for backup and disaster recovery, applications that many organizations have had trouble justifying the cost. Cloud offers them a relatively easy and sometimes inexpensive way to protect their data.
Here, potential problems also arise. Putting information into the cloud is often a relatively straightforward task, but getting it back out and using it in place of applications that have been knocked offline is much more complex. Businesses often need help finding the right use for cloud storage.
Coming in the new year
So what is on tap for 2018? The growing use of flash has created a problem: Traditional I/O interfaces are often too slow to keep up with disk reads and writes. NVMe (non-volatile memory express) is a host controller interface and storage protocol designed to accelerate the transferring of data between computer servers and solid-state drives. Vendors have started to dabble with new interfaces, but work remains before the technology becomes plug-and-play.
With the storage market changing, how should resellers respond? Partners need to educate themselves on new technology and how it impacts their business. Rather than simply focus on one vendor's solution, they need to understand how the entire data center is functioning and identify the best technologies for each application. This approach requires more work, but also offers them more opportunities as demand for more storage continues.