Indian storage sector is in transformation
Director- Technology Services, EMC India & SAARC
hoever said storage is boring (and way down in supply chain of IT architecture) is not keeping pace with the dramatic transformation that is currently underway in this sector. Today, in a world where the megatrends of social, cloud, Big Data and mobility are storming the enterprise; the policy environment continues to tighten need for compliance; and general stakeholder demands an ‘anytime anywhere’ culture, storage is fast becoming the cornerstone of IT infrastructure among Indian enterprises. These developments are driving unparalleled innovation in the storage sector.
Discussions within the enterprise have moved from gigabytes to terabytes to now petabyte scale. For such environments, apart from large capacity, the need for stable performance and consistency is paramount. So storage systems need to now factor in scalability and availability as crucial considerations beyond just capacity. Such storage systems are ideal for environments where you need to parallel process huge amounts of information request like for Internet social networking companies.
Also, there have been instances where customers in India have deployed highly scalable architectures using Open Source (Hadoop like) technologies on non-proprietary hardware. This fuelled further innovation, where storage arrays have started offering outof-the-box compatibility for Hadoop file systems offering best of both worlds. This has enabled businesses to analyze their data and extract value from it more effectively.
On other hand, there are applications that cater to transaction processing workloads where performance needs are exponential. Like a stock exchange for example. Here while considering storage, capacity needs may not be very high, but extremely high performance with data consistency/ coherency is foundational. To cater to such application needs, storage companies have been innovating around flash technologies. There has been introduction of flash in ‘hybrid’ storage arrays to cater to such performance requirements. However, the innovation just didn’t stop there. Storage players further built intelligence through software introductions like Fully Automated Storage Tiering aka FAST within the array that allows automatic data movement within the storage tiers based on their performance and capacity needs defined by the enterprise. To complement storage-based tiering technologies further, server-based flash technology took overall performance of enterprise environments to new heights. Currently, the response time to high performance application has come in the range of sub milliseconds from many milliseconds, which means customers can transact faster and much more than before.
Innovation didn’t stop here too. Leading players invested ahead of the curve and introduced All Flash Arrays (AFA) in the market. These arrays were initially developed with maximum performance and low latency as prime design principals in mind. Over time, the architecture has matured to incorporate sophisticated features such as scale-out architecture, de-duplication and data protection. Today, these architectures address all requirements for flashbased storage, including achieving longevity of the flash media, lowering the effective cost of flash capacity, delivering performance and scalability, providing operational efficiency, and delivering advanced storage array functionality.
That said, IT agility within Indian enterprises in general is limited largely due to IT architectures remaining siloed. That is set to change as well with the dynamic nature of the cloud, which requires an extremely flexible data center — Software-Defined Data Center — that can easily be programmed to configure its compute, network and storage resources to dynamically meet the needs of each tenant application. In such architectures all the data center resources are abstracted from the underlying hardware to create shared pools of resources. This approach is shaping what we call the truly adaptive data center of the future.
Storage is adapting to this new Software-Defined trend as well. Today, massive amounts of data resides in heterogeneous storage systems in multiple data centers distributed across the world. Data is being accessed through traditional interfaces (block, file) and new ones (objects, HDFS). The next shift as we see is Software-DefinedStorage. It fundamentally allows enterprises to decouple and abstract control and policy (control plane) from physical stuff that does work. It allows the physical stuff that does work (data plane) to be software on commodity hardware and last but not the least, it is based on programmable infrastructure APIs to automate everything.
In summary, storage has evolved to an intelligent technology platform that understands and adapts to changing enterprise environments and workloads in the digital era. The kind of storage and roadmap for an enterprise is being determined by several factors like the digital universe they need to deal with, ever changing customer expectations now and in the future, internal enterprise IT applications and workloads, IT budgets, competitive nature of their business and growth/ survival ambitions.
Abhijit Potnis is Director- Technology Services, EMC India & SAARC