We start the discussion deconstructing recent reductions in year over year revenues at major storage vendors. It seems with the advent of all flash arrays (AFA), and all major vendors and most startups now have AFAs, customers no longer feel the need to refresh old storage hardware with similarly (over-)configured new systems. Instead, most can get by with AFA storage, at smaller capacities that provides the same, if not better, performance. Further9, the fact that AFAs are available from so many vendors and startups, customers no longer have to buy performance storage exclusively from major vendors anymore. This is leading to a decline in major vendor storage revenues, which should play itself out over the next 1-2 years as most enterprise storage systems are refreshed.
Recent and future acquisitions also came up for discussion. NetApp’s purchase of SolidFire was a surprise, but SolidFire had carved out a good business with service providers and web-scale customers which should broaden NetApp’s portfolio. In the mean time, the Dell-EMC acquisition takes them out of the competition for new technology acquisitions, at least until it closes. NetApp’s new CEO, George Kurian, appears more willing than his predecessor to go after good storage technology, wherever it comes from.
Software delivered (defined) storage came up as well. With the compute available in todays micro-processors, there’s very little a software delivered storage system can’t do. And with scale-out storage, there’s even more cores to work with. Software delivered storage and scale-out will continue to play a spoiler role, at least in the low to mid-range, in the storage market throughout the next year.
Nonetheless, hardware still has some excitement left. Intel’s recent acquisition of Altera, now makes Xeon/x86 processing available for embedded applications that previously had to rely on ARM and MIPS processing. Now, there’s nothing an FPGA hardware based system can’t do. Look for lot’s more activity here over the long term.
We talked about recent SMR disks coming out and how they could be used in storage systems today. There was some adjacent discussion on the flash-disk crossover, and conclude it’s unlikely over the next 3-5 years, at least for capacity drives. Although there’s plenty of analyst that say it’s already happened, on a pure $/GB there’s still no comparison.
We then turned to 3D TLC NAND and the reliability capabilities available from current controlller technologies. Raw planar NAND available today is much less reliable than what we had 1-2 generations back, but the drives, if anything, have gotten more reliable. This is due to the reliability technology inherent in todays SSD controllers.
We had an aside, on SSD overprovisioning and how this should become a customer level option. Reducing overprovisioning would decrease drive endurance but it’s a tradeoff that the vendors/distributors make for customers today. We feel that at least for some customers, they could make this decision just as well. Especially if drive replacements were a customer maintenance activity with replacement SSDs shipped in a just-in-time manner.
We conclude on 3D XPoint (3DX) non-volatile memory. We both agreed 3DX adoption depends on pricing which will change over time. In the long term, we see the potential for a new storage system with 3DX or other new non-volatile memory as a top performing storage/caching/non-volatile memory tier, 3D TLC NAND as a middle tier and SMR disk as the bottom tier. When is another question.
Our year end discussion always wanders a bit, from high end business trends to in the weeds technologies and everything in-between. This one is no exception and runs over 49 minutes. We tried to do another Year End video this time but neither of our video recording systems worked out, but we had a good audio recording, so we went with the podcast this year. Next year should be back to video. Listen to the podcast to learn more.