The shrinking low-end

I was updating my features list for my SAN Buying Guide the other day when I noticed that low-end storage systems were getting smaller.

That is NetApp, HDS  and others had recently reduced the number of drives they supported on their newest low-end storage systems (e.g, see specs for HDS HUS-110 vs AMS2100 and Netapp FAS2220 vs FAS2040). And as the number of drives determines system capacity, the size of their SMB storage was shrinking.

But what about the data deluge?

With the data explosion going on, data growth in most IT organizations is something like  65%.  But these problems seem to be primarily in larger organizations or in data warehouses databases used for operational analytics.  In the case of analytics, these are typically done on database machines or Hadoop clusters and don’t use low-end storage.

As for larger organizations, the most recent storage systems all seem to be flat to growing in capacity, not shrinking. So, the shrinking capacity we are seeing in new low-end storage doesn’t seem to be an issue in these other market segments.

What else could explain this?

I believe the introduction of SSDs is changing the drive requirements for low-end storage.  In the past, prior to SSDs, organizations would often over provision their storage to generate better IO performance.

But with most low-end systems now supporting SSDs, over provisioning is no longer an economical solution to increase performance.  As such, for those needing higher IO performance the most economical solution (CAPex and OPex) is to buy a small amount of SSD capacity in conjunction with the remaining storage in disk capacity.

That and the finding that maybe SMB data centers don’t need as much disk storage as was originally thought.

The downturn begins

So this is the first downturn in capacity to come along in my long history with data storage.  Never before have I seen capacities shrink in new versions of storage systems designed for the same market space.

But if SSDs are driving the reduction in SMB storage systems, shouldn’t we start to see the same trends in mid-range and enterprise class systems?

But disk enclosure re-tooling may be holding these system capacities flat.  It takes time, effort and expense to re-implement disk enclosures for storage systems.  And as the reductions we are seeing in low-end is not that significant, maybe it’s just not worth it for these other systems – just yet.

But it would be useful to see something that showed the median capacity shipments per storage subsystem. I suppose weighted averages are available from something like IDC disk system shipments and overall capacity shipped. But there’s no real way to derive median from these measures and I think thats the only stat that might show how this trend is being felt in other market segments.


Image credit: Photo of Dell EqualLogic PSM4110 Blade Array disk drawer, taken at Dell Storage Forum 2012