In spite of the fact my company does cloud storage and backup, I am not what I’d call a storage geek. While many facets of the cloud stack fascinate me, I don’t spend hours talking about block versus file versus object storage or waxing philosophical about the demise of tape. But for two days at the recent Storage Visions 2013 conference that’s exactly what everyone did.
On the bright side, I learned new tidbits about storage, and I met many smart, energetic interesting people – two ongoing goals in my life. Also, I was privileged to sit on a panel where I was one of three women, which I believe is a new record, and those two other women I believe were the smartest folks on stage!
The word of the show was SSD, which for the storage challenged stands for Solid State Drive. SSD is a flash drive, using primarily NAND Flash, based on a special memory chip with rewriteable cells that can hold data even when not powered. SSDs are ideal for applications and processes needing improved performance or faster data input/output. SSDs provide faster and more agile storage (thanks partially to the caching capability) and are now often mentioned in the same sentence as “cloud” solutions. They are replacing traditional HDDs (hard disk drives); however, SSDs are still significantly more expensive.
What I did not know is that SSDs are helping save the world. According to one presenter, the use of SSDs is enabling major research organizations to handle data in faster ways, and this will contribute to major breakthroughs, including the curing of cancer. Wow! If that doesn’t make you want to go out and buy (or hug) an SSD, not sure what does. To be honest, I immediately went on Amazon and added the Intel 520 series SSD to my wish list.
One of the best conversations I had at the show was with Liz Conner of IDC, who covers the personal and entry-level storage market. A few key points she made that really resonated with me. One that computer refresh cycles are extending from the previous 3 to 5 years to a longer 5 to 10 years, which means folks will be looking to really get more out of what they already have. Second, we were in complete agreement that the cost structure of “cloud” is still too high.
Finally, we talked quite a bit about extending on-premise storage devices to the cloud, and specifically about network attach storage (NAS) and cloud gateways. In Liz’ opinion, 2013 is going to be the make or break it year for cloud gateways, and if they don’t prove out in the coming year, users are going to leap frog straight to the cloud and bypass the gateway, or get there using hardware that is not just a storage device but rather a multi-purpose device.
I think a good analogy is how we no longer need a VHS, DVD, Bluray, etc., but we either just stream movies straight from the Internet via Netflix or another service, or we play our Blurays on our gaming console. So would it be with storage if we just backed up our data from whatever device we were using straight to the cloud without a mediating local storage-specific device.
In my own 2013 predictions, I forecast that cloud storage gateways or onramps are going to enter the mainstream in the coming year. I don’t think users are ready to give up the comfort of local storage for some time, just as no matter how much we talk about object based storage making file systems irrelevant, we are not yet ready to give up the comfort of our folders. But I agree this will happen in time.
I also enjoyed the many conversations with bloggers and the media at the show, including a lively radio interview with Computer Outlook. We had fun as well handing out our “Byte Me” t-shirts to everyone who came by the booth – these were a big hit!! And in the end, I did find myself starting to geek out a bit on storage.