Happy new year! As we look forward to the year ahead, it’s time to consider the trends that will drive IT transformation for modern enterprises.

The use of the cloud for active, unstructured data will continue to increase, ushering in the era of “hybrid IT,” which will become the de facto standard for data-driven organizations. Through this transformation, simplicity will need to become a key mantra for IT organizations. Hybrid IT should be simple to deploy and simple to manage, all through the same interface. This simplicity won’t mean functionality will be limited, it means that vendors will design and develop solutions with hybrid IT in mind. Further, they will develop hybrid IT solutions with the recognition that this will be the decade where managing billions of files will become commonplace.

High-resolution video files, including those generated by video surveillance, will be another key driver of this explosive data growth, particularly given the emergence of smart city and public safety initiatives.

As AI/ML continues to become mainstream, the result will be a desire to keep and have readily available more and more unstructured data that can be analyzed in order to gain a competitive advantage.

So in the years ahead, how will organizations easily secure, manage, store, and access their growing repositories of unstructured data?

1. NVMe file storage will be adopted broadly for performance starved, low-latency applications

Every so often a technology is introduced to the market that changes the game. SSDs were this technology for storage. When they were originally introduced, even with the limitations of the SAS protocol, they caused a step change in the market with their speed. However, as the amount of file storage continued its unrelenting march towards billions and billions of files, it became necessary to design a method to unlock the true speed of SSDs. Necessity is the mother of invention and the NVMe protocol was created.

NVMe is a communications protocol explicitly developed to optimize all-flash storage. NVMe enables an application to get the full performance out of the SSD storage devices that previously were not being optimally leveraged. It is geared for enterprise workloads that require top performance, such as video post-production, scientific research applications, financial service analytic applications and other latency-sensitive workloads. By the end of 2020, all-NVMe file storage will be dominated by players that can deliver end-to-end value and performance to applications by optimizing the network, protocol interfaces, file system software and storage to eliminate bottlenecks.

2. Data-driven businesses will shift more workloads to the cloud for data processing, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI)

Every major enterprise in the world is going to become a hybrid enterprise. The public cloud gives organizations access to virtually unlimited compute power and a wide variety of applications not available in their data centers. According to a report, Hybrid Cloud Trends and the Role of Active Unstructured Data, prepared by ESG, 85% of organizations have distributed unstructured data workloads today that span multiple data centers. By the end of 2020, the majority of these will include a public cloud component for cloud application processing work.

3. Modern file storage will become the preferred technology for on-prem unstructured data active archives

Modern file storage solutions deliver performance and economics in a single-tier solution managed by intelligent caching. Legacy NAS architectures with scale limitations and object storage, which introduce tiering into the workload, are not the best fit for customers seeking simplicity to deliver application performance and cost-effective retention. Modern file storage meets all of the needs of an unstructured data environment: extreme scale, high performance, cost-effective.

As the scale and geographic distribution limitations emerged in legacy NAS environments, object storage was developed. By the end of 2020, we expect to see modern file storage to be fully adopted as the solution of choice on-premises, driving simplicity, performance and economics from a single solution. In hybrid and cloud environments, modern file storage will manage data ingest and active data processing, then move data to cloud object stores such as S3 and glacier for retention.

4. Single-tier solutions delivering the simplicity users desire will gain favor over multiple-tier storage solutions

Enterprise organizations have been relying on tiering systems to manage the location of data and to get to a blended price point for the entire system. Many storage environments will have a variety of storage technology: SSD, disk and cloud. However, customers shouldn’t have to manage these storage technologies via policies that move data up and down the tiers; the system should be able to manage automatically. Through 2020, customers will increasingly require single-tier file storage solutions that automate the process of leveraging memory, cache and capacity storage without IT intervention or affecting application performance and user workflows.

5. Enterprise, distributed, cloud-native file systems will enable customers to shift to the cloud faster without compromising on features or scale

Enterprises are eager to take advantage of the benefits offered by the cloud and to have these cloud resources as an integral part of their overall data environments. However, file system technology limitations have slowed this adoption for unstructured data in the cloud. Many of the cloud-native file services lack enterprise features such as sharing data across SMB and NFS for Linux, Windows and Mac environments. They also lack the ability to snapshot and replicate across on-prem and multi-cloud environments. In parallel, constraints with legacy file systems in the datacenter limit their use in the cloud, particularly for active data. Over the next twelve months, file in the cloud will land on enterprise-proven, cloud-native file systems that offer the same capabilities on-prem, in the cloud and across hybrid environments.

6. Data awareness will be built into all technologies to help customers with massive volumes of unstructured data

One of the greatest challenges in file storage, at scale, has been knowing what data you have, who is using it, how it is growing, and where bottlenecks are occurring. Data-driven organizations require real-time analytical tools to make well-informed decisions regarding their data. Unstructured data is directly tied to better decision making and increasing competitiveness in delivering new products and business strategies. In 2020, vendors will need to help customers understand which of their data is hot or cold and organize and curate this data by their own business logic.

7. Customer experience will become as important as product features

Users have long been frustrated by difficult access to experts when support tickets are opened. They are angered by technology lock-in when they choose their solutions. And, they have felt they have to strategize to get what they require out of their storage vendors instead of it feeling like a partnership for success.

Storage and infrastructure vendors have historically adopted the philosophy that after landing a sale, everything else falls to support. However, the world has changed. Instead of trying to win business, successful vendors must look to make customers data-driven organizations successful. Products that compete on speeds and feeds will be beaten by those that compete on partnership and user experience. The vendors that will take market share in 2020 will not only create a product that meets business requirements and workflow demands, but will also have all the business systems, communication tools and corporate culture to ensure customers are successful for years into the future. Gone are the days of customer escalations, lengthy hold times and inflexible support policies.

Source: ESG Research Survey conducted in partnership with Qumulo, Hybrid Cloud Trends and the Role of Active Unstructured Data, January 2020

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