"Cloud storage will become more mainstream"

by Sohini Bagchi    Dec 24, 2012

Akhil KamatEnterprise storage is undergoing a pivotal transformation. The C-suite is under constant pressure of improving performance at reduced costs. In an exclusive interaction with Sohini Bagchi of CXOtoday, Akhil Kamat, Country Manager, Storage, Systems & Technology Group, IBM elucidates the recent and upcoming storage trends and the storage technologies that can meet the changing demands of IT and the business environment. An excerpt.

How is big data affecting storage usage?
There is a huge explosion of data and storage in the enterprises all across the world. One of the key concerns of data center administrators is how they can efficiently handle the growing size of data, rack space, floor space and power as well as cooling requirements. There are two things involved here when we talk about big data and storage. Firstly, it is important to understand and source the right data and then it’s about storing the data in the right place. Once sure of the data source, enterprises can effectively leverage big data to innovate their processes in a flexible and dynamic way to evolve their business model. The other area where big data needs arise in the storage arena stems from an efficient data management perspective, where there is a constant need to archive the old data and keep the most important data readily available. The importance of big data in analytics and storage will continue to increase with the wide explosion of data as enterprises will need a new storage approach to manage future growth.

What are the other technology trends you observe in the storage arena?
There are primarily three enterprise storage trends as seen in the market. The year witnessed a larger usage of Solid state drives or SSDs across enterprise environment from tiered solutions, virtualized, databases and the cloud. All of these will benefit from the use of SSD. The coming year will see more SSD usage, not only in terms of volumes, but in more applications, especially with the increased adoption of flash storage in enterprise products, but also in the growth of mobile client devices. Secondly, it’s about cloud storage and storage virtualization. With more number of hypervisors are introduced on the server side, they will be connected with storage hypervisor layers. This enables a more integrated approach for servers and storage management and not in silos. Thirdly, data protection will be built into the cloud infrastructure – both private and public cloud - and will be deployed as a service or offered as part of the overall infrastructure building blocks. Finally, deduplication will continue to be a key growth catalyst for organization. With the emergence of big data, organizations cannot afford to have duplicate data across their network. The technology will drastically reduce the time required to back up the entire data.

Will SSDs ever succeed HDD? What is your view on this?
SSDs, based on NAND flash memory chips are supporting the new storage demand. Undoubtedly, it offers better performance for random access of small blocks of data. It is also flexible and energy efficient. In terms of capacity, SSDs are not going to replace HDDs. These speculations always existed. Rather, in my views, these technologies are often more complementary than contending. In the past so many years, just as HDDs have not replaced tape in certain specific archiving enterprise applications, in the same way, HDDs will also retain their function as the primary form of storage. This is especially from a cost and performance point of view for large capacity storage. However, storage needs continue to increase with newer application and devices being introduced in the market, not to forget the demand for enhancing both performance and responsiveness at the data center. Rather than replacing HDDs, SSDs and flash memory will continue to enable new devices and new applications. This trend will also boost the demand for storage of digital data on the more cost-effective HDDs.

With the emergence of cloud computing do you see enterprises in the mid-market segment rethinking their storage needs or adoption?
I see a lot of uptake in the mid-market segment in terms of storage adoption. Many of them are opting for centralized storage. They do much of planning regarding their storage needs just like other areas of IT. Even then, they are vulnerable against cloud outages and as a result, they just don’t buy their storage products in haste. They carefully analyze their options before making any purchasing decision. But if you look around you would see more enterprise-grade NAS storage appliances starting to incorporate support for backups directly into the cloud. Take for example, the Cooperative banks who are realizing that cloud storage offers a real value proposition and are including it as part of their IT transformation initiative. Once they realize that they have opted for a more secure and enterprise-class solution, they will stick to it. Personally, I believe in the coming year, cloud storage will become more mainstream.