David Buss, CEO at OpenDrives.
Physicist Niels Bohr once said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” A prescient thought to describe this day and age of rapid technical innovation.
But why try to predict the future when we can create it? To do this, we must continue to drive forward virtuous cycles of technical innovation by leveraging situational awareness, something I’ve written passionately about before, to better understand the environment around us.
My current company, OpenDrives, places enormous emphasis on cyclical innovation through better awareness of our customers’ needs. We’re constantly keeping our ears to the ground to keep our industry insights sharp. These beneficial traits enable me to peek forward into what I think the next year will bring.
Innovations in cloud architectures and distributed IT services have evolved rapidly to address worker decentralization, which accelerated during the pandemic. Organizations have been forced to operate nimbly and must migrate to infrastructures with open standards. While these innovations were well underway prior to the pandemic, I predict that these trends will grow and magnify in importance.
My biggest prediction for 2022 is congruent with these trends — and it is that storage will finally become synonymous with software.
Everything Decentralized And Distributed
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Evolution always accelerates in response to worldwide cataclysmic events, so it comes as no surprise that the last two years have brought sweeping change to the data storage sector as well as the world at large.
The modern workplace and its supporting IT infrastructure became heavily decentralized due to the predominant shift to remote work. We’re finding that re-centralizing workforces, workflows and the supporting infrastructure may not be efficient or even necessary for that matter. We’ve moved more users to cloud-based applications and services that are more easily accessible, with the additional benefit of flexible consumption models based on opex rather than capex, which helps organizations react to fluctuating operating conditions. I expect decentralized workforces will continue to grow, fueling the need for more innovative and feature-rich cloud applications.
Because we can’t depend on guaranteed high-speed connections from the user to a storage service in this decentralized work model, we have to compensate with smarter data-handling capabilities, such as intelligent caching and time- and labor-saving automation that drives compute and other critical data-centric processes.
We’re way beyond adopting the cloud.
The big catchphrase for the longest time was cloud adoption. Ironically, individual consumers quickly embraced the value of personal cloud-based services, but enterprises actually were behind that adoption curve.
Now, businesses are taking advantage of that aforementioned opex consumption model, cloud resources’ increased flexibility and scalability and the ability to use service providers to handle the tactical side of deployment and operations as a way to extend their on-premise infrastructure. Let me be clear about this: Enterprises won’t be giving up on-premise solutions but will increasingly adopt a hybrid model that better aligns with their workforce and tools. The biggest challenge is making this hybrid infrastructure a seamless whole.
Forward-leaning enterprises are moving to cloud-native architectures with applications designed and developed specifically for the cloud. They’re also shifting to DevOps (or DevSecOps for the security-minded) to increase the cadence of their development-to-operations model. And of course, virtualization continues to advance, enabling what was once physical hardware to morph into virtual, software-defined infrastructures.
By 2022, data storage vendors will have to support cloud initiatives that their customers have already adopted and create solutions that take full advantage of the cloud and its ability to provide ease of accessibility, flexible services and scalability. Keep in mind that most of this is software-defined innovation. The reality is that the cagey storage providers are “there” already. The truth is, we’re software companies now.
Hybridization For Open-Standards-Based Storage
In this new hybrid IT environment, applications need to be portable and agnostic of the underlying operating system and storage infrastructure, as well as interoperable with just about anything else. To achieve this, vendors need to be all-in with open standards that create an “open” IT ecosystem. The core benefit of software-defined services is the flexibility to interface gracefully with other services according to open industry standards. Customers want adaptable solutions, not vendor lock-ins.
A trend that is in line with this streamlining is containerization, which means packaging more lightweight and portable applications. Containers work well in cloud-based and virtualized environments, so we can expect to see applications and workflows running alongside or even on the storage solution itself. 2022 could be a revolutionary year for open-standards-based storage, and as a result, we could see a more open ecosystem.
The Ecosystem Of Software-Defined Storage
Speaking of the IT ecosystem, I’ve written before about how different parts of the enterprise IT environment interact and evolve in the same way that natural ecosystems do. Let’s face the fact that storage has moved up the food chain. Expect to see it evolve more quickly and supersede other parts of the IT universe.
What is particularly exciting about 2022 is that the line between storage and software will continue to blur, to the point that storage evolves into mostly next-generation data management software, leveraging generic physical or virtualized resources to operate. This is the point where open standards are key: Storage solutions in the form of data management platforms must interoperate and play nicely with everything else in the ecosystem.
So what does it all add up to?
If my prediction is even close to being in the right zip code and storage does finally become synonymous with software in 2022, this change in perception will have a lasting impact on the storage industry.
Perhaps more importantly, though, nearly all companies that rely on data movement (and who doesn’t?) will reap the benefits of a software-defined and open storage ecosystem.