“The world has gone crazy,” remarks James Kennedy-Moffat, Sales Director, NetApp, when opening the discussion at the Reseller News Roundtable - Shifting the role of storage: How the channel can rise to the enterprise challenge.
“Now I’m the cool guy in the room because storage and the Intellectual Property businesses have is King.”
In assessing the state of play in the storage market across New Zealand, Kennedy-Moffat believes businesses up and down the country now see data, and the information that comes with it, as the “most important” part of the technology equation.
While it wasn’t always like this, in the modern era, the role of storage within enterprise has changed.
Traditionally, money and people were long considered the key assets of organisations but in the 21st century economy, data and information are now also considered crucial enablers of growth.
In this Information Age, the importance of managing data assets has become of paramount importance, with a greater focus on storage solutions to better understand the characteristics, structure and limitations of a data-driven culture in the digital workplace.
As such, flash-based storage in particular continues to move from being an expensive niche technology targeted at a few workloads to a more mainstream option across enterprise.
Analyst firm IDC points to the broader availability of products, a growing level of familiarity with the benefits of solid state technologies, and declining prices as adding to the momentum of flash-based storage, as a tsunami of data continues to crash over New Zealand organisations.
“The impact of flash has been quite prevalent in New Zealand,” adds Arron Patterson, Chief Technology Officer, EMC. “We’re seeing a reasonable proportion of storage deals heading in that direction, with a heavy flash bias.
“Storage has always been a little bit of a black art, when specific skills around designing solutions were required. That’s starting to broaden out however and we’re seeing more cases for large object stores, and specific storage for specific use cases.
“New Zealand by and large has tended to go down the hybrid array route, but we’re also starting to see more differentiation in the types of workflow deployed.”
Industry figures cite increasing availability of flash-based products across a broader range of use cases, as vendors improve messaging and drop component prices to help mitigate the biggest concerns to enabling even broader adoption of flash in the future.
Of course, some end-users believe they do not have the workload demands or budgetary appetite for flash-based storage systems, but on the whole, the pace of adoption of flash-based storage solutions, backed by numerous offerings from suppliers of enterprise storage systems ranging from start-ups to the tier 1 vendors, is ample proof of a tremendous interest in this technology.
“In New Zealand, we’re absolutely ahead when it comes to flash,” adds Richard Prowse, Business Manager - Storage Platforms, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
“Because of the Kiwi culture and the fact that even our largest enterprises are not unmanageable, we’re starting to see flash dominate.”
For Prowse, in overlooking the development of the storage and data platforms for Hewlett Packard Enterprise in New Zealand, such domination represents challenges for the rotational data storage market, which he believes remains relevant through legacy-based systems.
“Flash domination is to be expected,” he adds. “Organisations are expecting second to none user experience and if you want to be instant and ready to go, flash is a way of achieving this.
“We find that if flash is at a price point that is sustainable and efficient, then businesses in New Zealand will adopt flash and as a result we’re seeing a huge move across all of our cases, as well as bringing new customers into flash.”
The Dell perspective, led by Andrew Diamond, Director of Storage and Data Management and James Arnold, Country Manager - concur that flash is dominating the storage scene in New Zealand, in reflection of global trends.
With all leading vendors in agreement, it seems clear that all solid-state technology will become commonplace in primary storage systems soon.
Diamond, in drawing on his specialist storage background, believes flash represents a “transitional technology”, as businesses seek new ways to address traditional objectives.
“Historically speaking,” observes Diamond, “businesses look at storage for reliability, efficiency and performance.
“With flash we’ve nailed performance as the technology white papers over those concerns and issues.
“But now we’re at the point where the technology is outpacing our demand from a workload perspective.
“That means developers can be a little bit more lazy than they have been in the past but the real knock-on effect, and the real opportunity, lies in our partners abilities to sit down with their customers and to really understand what they are doing, how they are operating and how they can help derive real business value.”
Diamond’s analysis of the shifting role of storage, from the user side of the fence, is simple; “They’re not looking for storage as storage anymore.”
Instead, businesses are seeking more bang for their buck, around analytics, data management, archiving capabilities and the like, as they search for data service providers who can deliver this value.
“Businesses are looking for more intelligence out of their storage,” he observes, “the business use has changed.”
With the room in agreement that the flash market in on fire in New Zealand, the end result is the emergence of vendors aggressively flash optimising offerings to provide improved performance, longer endurance, higher reliability, and lower effective dollar per gigabyte.
There is no question about the importance of flash's future in the data centre, and although the initial market entrants with flash-optimised offerings were all start-ups, at this point, all the traditional enterprise storage vendors have joined the party.
“Flash is on the upward curve,” adds Kennedy-Moffat, when forecasting local market trends for 2016.
“Flash has come in, it’s super cheap and offers different types to deploy. But it won’t be around for very long before we go to something far more persistent.”
Alluding to Diamond’s earlier comment, Kennedy-Moffat believes the transitional nature of the technology will ensure that flash isn’t around forever, despite its impact on the market today.
“Back to my earlier point of the world going crazy,” he adds, “it’s because any technology that is new, and any technology that is not common, businesses by and large pay a premium for it.
“Historically, businesses have paid top dollar for new technologies which flood the market and change everything.
“But the price of flash has dropped so quickly that everyone can now afford to deploy it, at least in some form so it should follow the old rule of thumb - it’ll expensively disrupt the market then over time, cheapen and decline.”
At a macro level, global information security spending will reach $US75.4 billion in 2015, an increase of 4.7 percent over 2014.
Delving deeper into the spend, high-profile data breaches continue to impact board-level decisions, as the need to not only protect information, but also recover data gains greater importance.
But as cyber-criminals continue to target organisations of all sizes, IT managers responsible for company and customer data recognise the need to take security to the next level.