The Tipping Point For Storage

When scientists discuss a global tipping point for climate change, they describe a time when the rising temperatures of seawater, melting glaciers, droughts, increasingly powerful storms and other factors will force “adapt or die” changes for the planet and its inhabitants.

At a recent discussion on the “Climate Change of Storage,” Peter Buschman, product storage owner at, likened global climate change’s tipping point to some of the sea changes happening in data storage today, where the cost and performance of NVMe flash is likely to bring about a tipping point toward extinction for traditional all-flash arrays starting in 2022.

He says that when the disparity between the price per terabyte for an all-flash array appliance reaches 20 times the cost of the SSD itself — which he predicts will be in less than three years — the all-flash array model simply will no longer be sustainable.

Whether or not that timeline holds true remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt the storage paradigms that have been popular over the past decade are at a growing threat of extinction. Companies reliant upon these existing storage solutions may choose to adapt or risk finding themselves struggling with more expensive, less flexible and more difficult-to-manage storage solutions that become increasingly problematic for handling the ever-rising tide of data.

Flash + NVMe

There are a variety of factors pushing these evolving storage trends. Here’s a great example: one 2.5-inch NVMe solid-state drive (SSD) can offer 16 TB of storage. This single SSD outperforms most enterprise all-flash arrays from just three years ago. That’s a tremendous shift over a short time period and may spell the eventual end for traditional enterprise appliances because hundreds of terabytes can be easily deployed in midrange commodity servers with higher performance and at far lower costs than those appliances.

Networking Speeds Are Rising

Another trend is that networking speeds have increased substantially. Today, 100 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) has become a commodity, which is a tremendous advance from just five years ago. Shin Umeda, vice president at Dell’Oro Group, recently said, “Network operators are benefitting from lower prices of 100 GE products to add capacity to their backbone and metro networks — the volume of 100 GbE port shipments almost doubled year-over-year.”

Now, nearly any company upgrading its network infrastructure is moving to 100 GbE, with 25 GbE to clients, which is resulting in a lot of additional headroom in the network infrastructure that isn’t being utilized. In some cases, the network may be at just 15% or 20% utilization, so there is a great deal of bandwidth available for storage on the network.

While storage solutions like iSCSI are on the decline, one of the storage protocols that is taking advantage of these higher networking speeds is NVMe/TCP, which is part of the NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF) standard. Solutions based on NVMe/TCP can separate compute from storage over standard networks, enabling ease of deployment at scale and lowering TCO. The NVMe/TCP standard enables disaggregation of storage from compute, so compute servers can share remote pools of low-latency NVMe solid-state drives (SSDs).

Applications And The Cloud   

More and more applications today are cloud-native, which is a different model than that of applications residing within the traditional enterprise. With this shift in application accessibility and use, the infrastructure must scale efficiently to support more users and have better performance — all of which requires greater storage capacity.

The result is a continuing move to the cloud — both to public clouds and on-premise clouds — because it provides a software-defined, flexible environment that supports increasing application demands. For storage on-prem, companies require a highly efficient way of deploying what hyper-scalers are doing but within their on-prem infrastructure, all while providing a low-latency and composable infrastructure to the applications.

Cost Savings

Every company wants to cut spending, but with ever-increasing volumes of data, finding savings with storage has been elusive. With the emerging trends noted above, however, storage is becoming less of a burden than ever before. With solutions that rely on software-defined storage stacks on top of commodity servers that use NVMe SSDs, companies can save on hardware costs and provide operational efficiencies.

The Tipping Point

The eventual extinction of traditional all-flash array appliances may feel like an excruciating shift for businesses. But there’s no doubt storage technology — and the data that resides in it — will remain foundational to every enterprise on the planet. Making that data available and easily accessible while also keeping it protected despite the massively increasing volume maximizes its value. That’s one tipping point we can all welcome.

Article originally published on Forbes, Forbes Technology Council, here.