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Peering into the future of enterprise storage for 2018

Rich Castagna takes a crack at the annual rite of prognostication with a bold look -- unfettered by truth, reality and sanity -- at data storage trends in the coming year.

As the end of the year approaches, analysts, vendors, consultants and anybody else who has some time on their hands are turning their attention to that age-old annual rite of making predictions about what tech to expect in the coming year.

Although I've ridiculed these prognostications in the past, I am not above making predictions of my own about the future of enterprise storage. Hopefully, you'll find my prophecies a bit more fun, even if they do skimp on the facts. But, you know what, those of us who are bold enough to look into the future and tell the world what we see -- no matter how silly or creepy that vision may be -- can hardly be encumbered by the limitations of truth, reality and, well, sanity.

So, here it goes ...

Toshiba enters a new dimension

As I peer into my SAN-attached crystal ball, I see Toshiba stumbling over a nuclear power plant to, almost literally, cause billions of IT dollars to atomize into thin air, leaving the company no choice but to sell off its most profitable, and least scary, business -- it's solid-state labs and fabs. Oh wait, that already happened, didn't it? We've been reading about the sale of that business for what seems like six or seven years now.

My real prediction is we will finally find out that 4D flash is the reason why Western Digital has so desperately clung to its joint development deal with Toshiba. Already bored with run-of-the-mill 2D and 3D flash, Toshiba's scientists have invented a new dimension where flash cells can be lined up left and right, stacked up and down, and spun out into alternate universes in the future of enterprise storage. With its infinite capacity and endless scalability, 4D has no need for wear leveling or program erase or any of those old-fashioned techniques used to extend the lives of chips stuck in a mere three dimensions.

Dell EMC splits

By about Q2 2018, Michael Dell will realize the honeymoon is over, and the venerable Dell EMC brand is in need of a shake-up that will have a profound effect on storage technology trends. With no shareholders to confer or contend with, Dell will hold long, animated conversations with himself -- captured by the webcam on his Dell XPS 15 laptop (with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD).

After weeks of negotiations, during which Dell storms out in a huff on more than one occasion, he announces that Dell EMC will split into two publicly traded companies. Dell will sell laptops and servers, and buy storage companies that few have heard of (and fewer have bought from). EMC will focus on storage hardware, diversifying by buying up so many smaller companies they have to create a team just to keep track of acquisitions.

Nutanix's super-extra-mega-hyper-converged system

Each new Nutanix HCI system will include a living, breathing admin, sandwiched somewhere between the storage, servers and networking gear.

Nutanix, a pioneer of the hyper-converged infrastructure craze that has dominated storage and systems discussions for the last couple of years, will one-up the growing ranks of competitors by adding a new service to its HCI product line. Move over Acropolis, Prism and Enterprise Cloud and make room for Norman. While combining storage, servers, networking and virtualization in a single product helped revolutionize data center infrastructure, Norman promises to turn that on its ear in 2018.

Stuffing all that infrastructure into a single package was pretty cool and oh so convenient, but Nutanix engineers realized something was missing: someone to run the whole thing and treat users with disdain when they request a new virtual machine or some disk capacity. Enter Norman. Each new Nutanix HCI system will include a living, breathing admin, sandwiched somewhere between the storage, servers and networking gear. By the second half of 2018, expect Nutanix's competitors to play catch-up, doing their best to erase the line that separates the man-machine interface with their own versions of the ultimate converged solution.

LTO-142 debuts

Faced with higher and higher HDD capacities and flash systems that can store the entire world's knowledge on a single PCIe card, the LTO Consortium decided to speed up product development to keep pace with the competing media. Thus, instead of following up the recent rollout of LTO-8 with LTO-9, the consortium -- anchored by IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Quantum -- will take the bold step of shortcutting its previously laid out LTO product development roadmap, accelerating the program with the release of LTO-142 products.

The LTO-142 specs will include capacities of up to 12 yottabytes compressed (3 YB native) and transfer speeds too damned fast to measure. It remains to be seen what effect these radical developments in tape technology will have on the future of enterprise storage or if they'll even be noticed.

Future of enterprise storage closer to home

In 2018, you will need more capacity and have less money to spend. When you start shopping for more storage, you will have a dizzying array (pun intended) of storage choices, ranging from traditional shared systems to hyper-converged gear to object to cloud and so on.

It looks like you'll have your hands full even if my fearless forecasts about the future of enterprise storage don't come to fruition. Happy New Year!

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