Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Monday, August 10, 2020
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HCI Deployments Fuel Booming Software-Defined Storage Market 

The sheer volume of unstructured data along with training and other data associated with AI and machine learning projects is fueling the shift by datacenters operators to software-defined storage (SDS) platforms better suited to processing tasks and retaining data.

Hence, market tracker Omdia forecasts the software-defined storage market will grow at a 28-percent annual clip through 2023, reaching an estimated $86 billion as demand for standalone storage products and backbone hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) continues to surge.

Among the drivers of the SDS boom is the relative ease of deployment and operation of hyperconverged infrastructure that virtualizes IT hardware. As enterprise storage demand soars, the hyperconverged approach has made it easier and cheaper to add capacity without the need for highly-trained IT administrators.

“Small enterprises [are] able to configure and manage the technology using generalists on their staff,” added Dennis Hahn, Omdia’s datacenter storage analyst.

Growing datacenter demand for HCI and associated cloud-based storage have spawned partnerships among server and cloud vendors targeting emerging edge computing deployments spurred by 5G wireless rollouts. Those deployments are designed to address a proliferation of connected devices generating new waves of data that must be stored, managed and analyzed.

For example, Lenovo and Microsoft last month announced a partnership that would run Lenovo servers on the Microsoft Azure HCI Stack platform. The combination is designed to move computing resources closer to data generated by edge devices.

These and other combinations designed to meet growing enterprise demand boosted HCI shipments 24 percent in 2019 on an annual basis, according to Omdia. Meanwhile, the five-year growth rate is pegged at a robust 56 percent. HCI shipments alone are expected to account for about half of the total SDS market by 2023. (Omdia’s forecast includes HCI and standalone storage products.)

The market tracker said Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and other cloud service providers contributed an estimated 43 percent of total SDS revenues in 2019. That growth reflects cloud providers’ embrace of object storage that makes it easier to retrieve scattered data and scale storage deployments. Amazon Web Services’ (NASDAQ: AMZN) Simple Storage Service is among the most popular.

Meanwhile, standalone software-defined storage that separates hardware and software into a la cart menus continues to grow but at a slower pace. Omdia attributed slower growth to a lack of industry standards for linking those systems. Once compatibility issues are resolved, the standalone SDS sector is expected to take off as well.

It cited standards efforts by groups like the Open Compute Project that would “allow for the creation of storage solutions that provide consistent storage deployment and associated support, hence reducing the level of skills required.”

For now, companies are testing SDS approaches via storage appliances that allow potential customers to gauge utility and potential return on investment.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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