Innovating in storage – apps and clouds

Innovating in storage – apps and clouds

“Driving innovation through information infrastructure”, that was the theme of SNW Spring 2011. I spent a good portion of the time looking for innovation.

I will tell you what did not seem innovative to me. Boot from SAN? No, been doing that for more than a decade. Thin provisioning? Automated tiering? Replication? Nope. Been there, done that, for more than five years. Faster disks? Faster SSD? Faster FC and iSCSI? Incremental improvements to be sure, but not radically innovative.

These advances are all within the storage stack. Moving up the stack into applications, and down the stack into cheap cloud storage, that is innovative.

Today’s primary storage is great at working with blocks, but it is largely ignorant about what the operating systems are doing with the block-level storage. This reminds me of old school stateful firewalls: excellent at TCP/IP but largely ignorant at what the applications were actually doing with the packets. Just like the firewall innovations during the last five years were driven by application awareness, storage innovations in the next five years will be all about the application.

At the same time, we need to keep lowering the costs. Another realm of innovations is in using cloud storage. (Read hosted off-premise multi-tenant storage made available via XML/HTTP calls.) Cloud storage from Amazon, Google, and Microsoft cost a fraction of what enterprise HDD cost from Samsung, Seagate, and Western Digital. Innovation will come from balancing cost/performance by tiering with SSD, HDD, and the cloud.

What will an innovative information infrastructure look like?

Here is my take of a 2014 SAN: Fast access to block storage on-premise over maturing protocols (FC, iSCSI, FCoE). Self optimizing for IO cost or IO performance thru automatic tiering. Optimizing for application thru application awareness (SharePoint, Exchange, SQL, Oracle, et cetera). Enabling new application-specific features. All back-ended onto the cloud with deduplication, compression, and WAN optimization.

That is what the new SAN will look like. And I want one.

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