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What’s in your flash future?

Over the next five years, experts say, developments in flash storage will drive a whole new class of applications that will change the way enterprises and individuals interact with technology and the decisions it enables.

Jeff Rowe | Nov 02, 2017 12:23 pm

Predicting the future can be a risky business, but when it comes to flash storage many experts are throwing caution to the wind.

In a recent round of interviews for the Enterprise Storage Forum, Drew Robb spoke with several analysts and stakeholders and got a glimpse at a decidedly rosey future, at least over the next five years.

For example, the flash market is going to boom, says Gartner analyst Valdis Filks, who believes that solid-state arrays (SSAs) will improve in performance by a factor of 10, and double in density and cost-effectiveness within the next year. This is destined to change the dynamics of the storage market. And from there, he sees many years of further expansion.

“By 2021, 50 percent of data centers will use SSAs for high-performance computing and big data workloads, up from less than 10 percent today,” said Filks.

Forecasting a similar growth, Frank Reichart, head of storage marketing at Fujitsu, “expects the next couple of years will see today’s SAS-connected SSD architectures develop into mainstream storage systems, increasingly replacing hybrid arrays. Further, price erosion will probably reach a level to allow the complete substitution of SAS hard disks, reducing the usage of hybrid systems to usage areas that focus on the lowest costs per capacity and which do not have high-performance requirements.”

Then there’s the matter of technological innovation within the flash sector. For example, Jeff Boudreau, president, Dell EMC Storage Division, notes that although these are still  the early days of real NVMe usage in storage, it will become the industry standard in five years.

“This means NVMe will be incorporated all the way from the fabric through the entire storage array stack (front end, internal, backend — including software optimizations,” he said.

According to Robb, these and other technological breakthroughs are the news of today, but in a few years, they will enter the mainstream. “Users can expect to pay more for products containing SCM and other technologies for a while. Eventually, however, they will become the norm.”

“At the same time, new architectures based on PCIe and NVMe are emerging for special usage areas that require maximum performance and entail premium prices,” said Reichart. “They will take over today’s all-flash technologies when they can compete on price. These will be based on server designs with intelligent storage software on top, and less on dedicated storage controller design.”

Finally, Eric Herzog, vice president of worldwide storage channels, IBM, foresees flash moving down the storage food chain. Whereas disk or even tape is regarded as the best home for secondary storage currently, Herzog thinks flash will gradually take over large chunks of these markets.

“Over the next several years. you will see flash move to secondary storage as well,” he said.