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Guest Post

How Storage Professionals Should Respond to COVID-19

TechTarget presents 2020 research on the impact of COVID-19 on storage spending and provides guidelines for coping with rapid change and massive unpredictability.

00:06 Jillian Coffin: Welcome everybody to this session where we will be discussing the impact of COVID-19 on storage spending. I will be the moderator for today's panel. My name is Jillian Coffin, I'm the vice president and group publisher at TechTarget. I oversee our editorial, audience development and advertising sales across our infrastructure, storage and cloud properties.

The goal for today's panel discussion is really to talk about the pandemic impact on IT purchasing behavior, both some of the short-term stuff we've seen and long-term. I also want to talk a little bit about some of the trending topics we're seeing related to storage as well as performance for specific applications, and then really thinking about how the data storage market is evolving and where this pandemic sort of fits into that evolution story.

So, I'm really excited to have this discussion. I am joined by an amazing panel, and I guess I'll introduce all of you, you don't have to introduce yourselves. Marc Staimer, who's the president of Dragon Slayer Consulting, and then we have Camberley Bates, who's the managing director and analyst at the Evaluator Group. And then we have Ken Steinhardt, who's the field chief technology officer at Infinidat.

01:24 JC: So, I'm so thrilled to have the three of you on my panel today, and I'm excited to have this discussion because it's really interesting times we're living in . . .

01:37 Marc Staimer: We've got the Chinese curse.


01:38 Ken Steinhardt: Thanks Jillian, glad to be here . . .

01:43 JC: All right.

01:43 MS: Glad to be here, Jillian.

01:44 JC: Great. So, a little background on some of the data. TechTarget has . . . We have a large audience, a large network of sites, and we have a lot of data, it's the one thing I can say we don't have a shortage on at any point in time. So, some of the data that I'm going to use for all of us to reference and sort of direct our discussion today, one is from the global . . . Our global IT priority study that we do annually, and of course, this year . . . We field the study usually in around November, December time frame, and it ends late January in the following year.

So, this past year, the study was in the field in December 2019, and we wrapped it up in January 2020. Which . . . Talk about interesting timing because so much changed from January to March time frame and certainly to now . . . But we . . . Still, it's great to look at that data, and we're going to talk a little bit about that and what sort of storage looked like, priorities going into the year, and then it's kind of good to have that starting point, so we can talk about the changes. We also have a variety of pulse surveys that we do related to flash performance, so I'm going to have some of that data.

02:55 JC: And then generally, again, we have this perspective because we do a lot of research and survey, but we can actually see what the audience is doing on our network, so it's always this perspective I love having as a publisher because it's like, "Yeah, they're telling me one thing, but then I can actually see what they're doing." Right? Their activity around certain topics, how it's changing. When we uncover projects, what do they look like over time? So, again, that's sort of the background on some of the data. There's definitely a variety of company sizes in some of the survey results and I won't have all of those cuts, but for the most part, I tried to pull worldwide data for today's discussion around . . . around flash.

03:35 JC: So, I want to talk a little bit about, going back again to the initial study we did at the start of the year, where we asked about initiatives going into 2020. I will say that for most people we talked to, they were already navigating a highly transforming digital landscape. There was lots of new areas of spend and lots of change that we were seeing . . . Lots of spending on technology . . . 55% at the start of the year said they were increasing their spend . . . Their budgets for IT. Sixty-six percent of the audience said that digital transformation projects were going to hit peak investment levels.

So, it was a lot of, "Hey, we're not just talking about this, we're actually starting to spend money on these projects, we're getting started, we're investing." And the very specific areas where we saw pretty . . . The highest increase related to digital transformation were things like network infrastructure modernization, security and risk management . . . Always top of the list, but even more so a priority this year, and then cloud infrastructure deployment or migration, which is everybody's favorite thing to do [chuckle] . . . That's a joke. I . . . Cloud migration tends to be a huge pain point, but again, a big area of investment and prioritization. And then, finally, almost 30% of the audience was planning to increase their spend around AI and machine learning.

04:54 JC: So, that was a big jump from 2019. So, again, already a lot going on if you're an IT or an infrastructure leader going into this year. When we asked about storage, specifically, when we think about that, cloud storage, almost 40% of the audience said this was the top area of investment. Some other areas that saw huge spikes year over year where things like storage as a service at 70% -- that was not even in the top 10 last year. This year, it's right up there in the top five. And then just, talking, again, to vendors in the community and buyers of storage, a lot of . . . We were picking up a lot on this, "Hey . . . People don't really want to be locked into these five-year-long, infrastructure, on-prem storage deals." They still are buying stuff, they still need . . . But they do want the option to be able to move to the cloud and opt out at any given time. So, again, already seeing some pretty major shifts with regard to storage spending, and I kind of want to acknowledge that with all of you.

I guess my first question is, does this data and do some of these trends -- before we even get to the pandemic -- does this match what you are seeing in the field when you're talking to buyers and sellers of storage? And are you seeing this trend of cloud and as a service?

06:16 JC: Why is this happening? Why are companies sort of moving this way? Is it because storage is so complex? Is it getting too expensive? Are they just throwing in the towel [chuckle] because they don't want to do it themselves anymore? Just . . . Again, is this sort of . . . Are you seeing these trends when you're out in the field? Ken, do you want to be the first to tackle that one?

06:36 KS: Sure, gladly . . . I would say that . . . I would frame it less as "cloud storage" as much as "cloud-like." I think what everybody's looking for, especially right now, is the ease of cloud, the simplicity of cloud. But they're also looking for, especially now, economic solutions that provide a lot of value. So, as a vendor, what we saw at our business, I think like everybody, when everything hit back in March, was everybody sort of went on pause for a second and regrouped and rebooted into a whole new way of looking at things and re-prioritizing what they would do . . . And the cloud attributes are things that people like, but as a result, I don't know if we're an exception to this, but we actually saw things turn significantly upwards by virtue of not only people looking for the cloud-like solutions on-premises, but mostly a lot of the cloud service providers themselves.

So, whereas a lot of the hyperscale cloud providers, the really big ones, obviously, as you're probably familiar, build a lot of their own hardware themselves. The next tier down, they love the concept of being able to have the flexibility for something that's easy, that they can pass along that ease to their customers with . . .

07:52 KS: But buying technologies that give them performance and availability and multipetabyte scale and that simplicity of what a cloud offers. So, while I think a lot of people say the word cloud, sometimes what they absolutely mean is cloud . . . But it could be, in many, many different interpretations, it could be a hyperscale cloud, it could be a large cloud service provider like Flexential or Netsmart or Rackspace or Thrive Networks or US Signal or someone like that, or it could be on-premises providing private cloud, but very much with the traditional hyperscale-class cloud type of ease and simplicity.

08:31 JC: That's really interesting and a great point to think about. The idea . . . The term cloud storage is so broad. How about you Marc or Camberley, any thoughts on . . . Does this kind of match what you're sort of seeing and hearing in the field?

08:44 MS: Go ahead Camberley.

08:45 Camberley Bates: Yeah . . . Go ahead, Marc.

08:46 MS: No, no, no, you can go ahead. I'll follow you.

08:49 CB: So, a couple points that I would bring out to add to this is pretty much from a data center situation, I think the number has been quoted as 80% of the data center or IT operations are still on-prem . . . at least in the large enterprises. So, yes, they are definitely looking at cloud in terms of how to use that. The question is, "Is what are they doing and what are the use cases they're are looking at?". . . And if you look at the enterprises, they are doing a couple of things which are supporting their development people better up in the cloud. They are looking at it for extensions of DR, they are looking at it as part of an AI strategy. So, all those pieces kind of go into there to say, "OK, so, let me follow the use case about where it's going." And then the latest thing that you're going to . . . The situation with the . . . SAP's announcement going cloud for HANA, that's another area that will push us into the cloud zone. But we still  . . . A reminder is that majority of it is still sitting on-prem . . .

10:01 JC: Right, well that's good. And that's probably a relief to many storage vendors, right? Look, not everything's going there, and there's still an opportunity and people aren't throwing in the towel necessarily doing everything cloud.

10:13 MS: Well, let me add to what Ken said and what Camberley said and disagree a little bit. What I'm seeing from customers is . . . What they're looking for is flexibility, agility, elasticity, on demand and cost control. Now, sometimes the answer is the cloud, sometimes it's not . . . Sometimes it's cloud adjacent, sometimes it's on-prem where it's as a service from the vendor. But there's a variety of different answers to what they're trying to get done. But most people throw that under the term cloud because elasticity and on-demand came from the cloud. But it's still that agility and that flexibility and that cost control that they're seeking. And I think what we've seen with the pandemic is that's accelerated that desire of control, in that area. That's what I've been seeing . . .

10:58 KS: I'll totally agree, the flexibility and agility have been probably the two most critical paramount issues people have said, "Hey, in this changed world, that's what I've got to have right now." Totally agree.

11:10 JC: That's right. And that's a great point to make. So, let's talk about the pandemic a little bit more, right?

As I mentioned, we did this study, and then, of course, the whole world changed [chuckle] Again, almost a 32% GDP decline in the second quarter, and I just . . . I can remember our family came back, my family came back from February vacation, and it was like, "Oh my God . . . The 'S' hit the fan." Basically, is what we were seeing on our end. And I look at what we're seeing, some of the other broader analysts out there saying, Gartner came out with a study, I think early spring that saw . . . cited an 8% decline in global IT spending.

Camberley, you're . . . the Evaluator Group basically said, "Hey, 40% of the people we're serving are re-evaluating their current projects. They're not necessarily cutting their spend, but they're resetting their future priorities." And think that was a . . . It's a very important point to make when we . . . When I think about TechTarget and where we sit and what we do, our whole job is to respond to audience like needs, their content needs, the information that they need. And when I look at the phases we had . . . I kind of put this in three phases.

12:22 JC: This initial phase, which was sort of the March time frame, we were writing a lot about this initial response, right? Employee collaboration, VPN access, network . . . How do I fix this HR and employee wellness? How do I build a plan to support employees in the short term? So, it was really very short-term reacting -- how to keep the lights on, how to keep employees being productive, what do we need to do from an e-commerce or digital customer engagement standpoint? So, there were investments, I think short-term as part of this sort of initial phase.

And then we saw this sort of second phase, which was more about . . . and this was sort of later in the spring, this idea of, "OK, we need to invest in stability. This is going to be the new norm for us, we are . . . People are going to be remote. We need to optimize our infrastructure and the way that we support [chuckle] things based on so many remote workers. We need a better service and desk response . . . I think desktop virtualization . . . " It's funny, we have a guy on our team that . . . This was a . . . One of those slow-moving areas of technology, and it just absolutely blew up over the last few months, desktop virt . . . and then security.

13:38 JC: Our security priorities have to change a little bit. The way that our company is functioning right now. So, there was a lot of new investments in things like anomaly detection and remediation, how do we do that? And then another big thing is automation . . . With people not physically being able to go to the data center to do some of this work, they really needed to invest in tools to automate some of this stuff and make it easier.

So, we jumped back into . . . We surveyed the audience again just recently, and just, again, I'm going to share some high-level data, and then I'm going to ask you some questions about this . . . But we found, people said that, hey . . . 52% said their budgets were flat, and for me, this was much better than I expected, across the board. I think the message was, "Hey, we still have to spend . . . And it's more that our priorities changed a little bit. What we were going to spend on is a little bit different."

We even had . . . some... 10% of the audience, said they were even increasing their spend. And one of the things we're learning from vendors is that the impact isn't uniform . . . Of the pandemic, is not uniform across all industries. Some industries are getting crushed right now, and some are actually needing to invest more in technology so that they can keep up. So . . . for some . . .

14:54 JC: . . . for some of the sales departments even we're working with, it's like, "Look, we're struggling in these kind of areas, but we've actually seen sort of an increase." And, Ken, you can probably . . . You sort of alluded to that earlier. And to summarize, what we found in checking back in with the audience post-pandemic, the big themes and the areas where companies felt that it was much easier to justify investment were related to remote work enablement, that was No. 1 . . . cloud and security. Those were the areas where it's like, "Hey, we're still spending here and it's much easier to get approval for this stuff" versus the stuff that was much harder, which is new staff, like [chuckle] hiring new people right now is really hard.

App development, anything that requires a lot of collaboration and communication across multiple offices and teams, if you don't have a process in place for that, it's really hard to make those projects successful right now.

And then finally, on-prem infrastructure. This was an area that has been a little bit harder to justify in the short term, refreshing your infrastructure might be something that you'd wait on or push off a little bit. And then thinking about this from an overall response posture perspective, I think the big themes here are really this idea of remote work enablement, automation and migrating to the cloud. Those are the big triggers right now.

16:14 JC: So, I'm going to stop talking and ask you all is . . . Knowing that companies are so focused on this right now, how do we, again, remote work enablement, automate, how do we make things easier for employees and what can we move to the cloud, basically is the first thing they're asking. What is the role of the storage vendor in all of this? What kind of role can they play and what are the sort of things that the storage community can do to help companies sort of weather this storm, both in the short-term and long-term?

16:51 CB: So, our numbers are slightly different in terms of what are the top things that are happening . . . and... more or less agree with it, maybe different terminology . . . What we are saying is to focus on where those big impacts are and enable how that digital transformation . . . And that's the big thing that's changing right now, is the transformation of the systems into higher automation, as you said, higher automation as it pertains to how they are being utilized by their client, their customers being me and you . . . being the outside customers of the company.

So, what we're talking to them about is, a lot of the stuff that . . . The fringe items that they were investing in has gotten peeled off. They are doubling down on core use cases, core applications that they're developing, they're doubling down on the digital transformation of the company, and it . . . So, it's those areas are where they should be focusing on and how do they support that. Anything having to do with digital transformation is going to have a huge, significant piece of data . . . that they are mining that data and using that data to help decide and automate, as you were talking about, the applications that are going out to their customers. So, understand where that data is flowing and how do they best help keep that data flowing the way it needs to for their use cases?

18:21 KS: Yes, and to complement Camberley's statements, the way the storage vendors can potentially help facilitate that a little easier has been associated less with the technology and more with business practices oftentimes driven by the technology. So, for example, things like OpEx models so that people can have the flexibility to just pay for what they need when they need it without having to invest in traditional CapEx expenditures. Or, even more attractively, we're seeing an awful lot of a hybrid between CapEx and OpEx. Where, in our case, for example, we'll ship, usually, a fully-populated system with full capacity, but only charge people for what they're going to use when they first get it, and then when they need more capacity, instead of having to have an order placed for it or a service event for somebody coming in installing new capacity or whatever, they just turn on what they need whenever they need it . . . And even if they have a spike and suddenly things come back down again, they can bring it back down again and only pay for what they need when they need it.

19:20 KS: So, those kinds of business models suddenly became not only attractive during what's happened in the last year, in some cases, they became absolutely necessary due to the reduced access to data centers and face-to-face situations and service visits and the like.

So, being able to have the flexibility from a business practice perspective as a storage vendor to let people only pay for what they need to use when they use it on either in OpEx or a hybrid CapEx-OpEx model has proven to be incredibly attractive and is driving a whole lot of business. It was also one of the things we saw early on were those people that immediately, suddenly were accustomed to service visits on site, realize that, "Hey, if I have one technology where I don't need that at all, I can just say I'm going to turn on more capacity and use it, whereas with another vendor, they would have actually had to place an order and wait for a service event." That becomes a fundamental differentiation between vendors that literally has very little to do with the technology itself.

20:20 MS: And I agree with both, Camberley and Ken, but I think it goes beyond that. And I like the idea of the flexibility on turning on capacity when you need it and only paying for what you use, and that's part of that flexibility of the cloud model.

What I'm seeing also what the storage vendor can do to help customers is to focus on time. When I say focus on time, it's time to market, time for the project to get completed, time in moving from one system to the cloud or to another system. It all comes down to their time, and the more you can simplify and make that time more effective and more productive, the better the customer is, so . . . Yeah, that's one piece of it. Definitely when it comes to resources, making that flexible, but it's the time aspect that is really, ultimately, affecting everything they're doing, especially in this new COVID reality.

21:13 JC: Interesting. Anything else to add on that? No . . . [chuckle] Well, timing is actually a good segue to our next conversation, because one of the things that we were . . . And this could be horrifying to some storage vendors out there, right when we were looking at research activity related to flash and even some of the infrastructure, we saw a pretty big dip when you look at Q1, the first quarter of this year, which is sort of the January, March time frame to Q2, we saw almost a 60% decline from the fourth quarter, so that was a little scary. But the good news is we're seeing that come back up pretty dramatically, and even so in the last 30 days as we continue to monitor and historically, the fourth quarter has been the most important year, a lot of storage gets bought I think in this October to January timeframe -- it's usually a really big earnings quarter for a lot of vendors out there.

So, we are starting to see some of this normalized and I wonder about the timing here. Do you anticipate companies who maybe put some of these storage refresh projects on hold in the short term, or maybe thought, "Hey, we're going to wait on this." Do you see that picking back up over the next two to six months?

22:42 KS: We didn't actually see the trough, [chuckle] so I'm not quite sure how we apply, but we've got a technology obviously that's got DRAM and flash and conventional hard disks and uses the flash and the DRAM strictly as cache, but we actually . . . After... We all saw the slowdown initially. I think all vendors did as mentioned earlier, but after that, we've actually seen an acceleration of our business. I think it's been driven less by the technology of the media than it is, dare I say, the fundamental reasons where people look to evaluate individual storage solutions, talk to me about the performance relative to my needs, talk to me about availability about scalability, about the economics associated with it. And regardless of what the technology may be under the covers, I think those are the things that people are looking at as they always have, rather than, "Gee, I will choose this particular technology over that."

23:42 JC: That's great. You're lucky you guys have a resilient business that was able to navigate pretty seamlessly through. Any comments on the fourth quarter, any predictions on spending coming back up around this?

23:53 MS: I don't think you're going to see a traditional spending situation. I think it's going . . . from the people I've been talking to, they're looking at more disruptive technologies than your traditional technologies in different ways of implementing applications in the cloud being one of them, of course. But one of the areas that I'm seeing is there tends to be a trend among some of the larger companies I've talked to, to separate data from the storage, and so managing the data instead of through the lens of the storage, through the lens of the data and putting that data where it needs to be, when it needs to be at the lowest cost or the best performance, depending, because every storage system is different, so that they are separating the management from the storage itself.

24:41 JC: Yes, that's been some . . . a go ahead.

24:44 CB: Yeah. The one big shift that we saw, the spend is still there, depending upon the industry, as you noted earlier on in the opening discussions because they're fueling the changes in the organization. The big thing that has shifted is everything is getting scrutinized; there are more reviews on the bids, the numbers, there's more . . . Signature levels have changed, everything gets delayed another month or so in terms of decision processing because of everything being scrutinized, and I would agree with Marc that it's probably not going to be this massive Q4. I think there's also a collective wondering how everything's going to pan out in the geopolitical environment over the course of the first two quarters of 2021, so there's the level of that kind of conversation that is happening with the clients that we've been talking to, and that's on all sides of the world.

25:53 JC: Yeah, I would agree with that. There's probably still a lot that's unknown, and Marc, to what you were saying, this idea of just what people care about and really what they're focused on, on how they're buying . . . I think this is an interesting thing to look at. So, we're constantly uncovering projects related to people who are buying flash, and we always ask about purchase requirements and criteria, and then we get to look at how . . . where we see shifts. And some of these are small, but sometimes it's like, "Whoa, this is a pretty . . ." We see a trend here, and you can see that some of the areas . . . Storage refresh is always the No. 1 purchase. It's always the one driver -- that's a big reason why people are just buying new storage.

26:37 JC: But some of the areas that we're seeing increases are related to this idea of a unified storage, this idea of flexibility, being able to integrate with lots of different types of storage, the idea of virtualization environments accelerating, I think that's probably linked to the desktop virt stuff we were seeing, and then the idea of tiering and replicating storage automatically. Again, this automation theme coming in, so I'm thinking that many storage buyers have been on some type of flash journey over the last handful of years, and I think a lot of the motivation to change has really been about increasing performance and speed, especially when you're talking about work, certain workloads, database, applications, things like that, and I always . . .

27:20 JC: I think flash has this sort of brand around being fast but expensive, which started to change a little bit, but seeing some of these new use cases and some of these things are almost capacity-oriented pieces of storage, I always put them in a different bucket, and it's things like storage, management of unstructured data and . . . grow file and object, so we're seeing flash come up a lot more in these other areas. And I know my question for you guys is "Flash, are people thinking about it differently? Is it sort of having a bit of a rebrand?" It's not really just going to be associated with performance and speed. Is it really going to be looked at as an essential data management tool going forward?

28:02 MS: Let me tackle this one head on for a moment. Flash is a media, it's not an end all. It's a media. It's a faster media -- in some cases, it's more expensive, sometimes not, so you're seeing different types of flash. In fact, you're seeing different types of non-volatile memory, which is what NAND flash is.

So, when you look at it and you go, "OK, let's we will get it from a price performance basis, not just a performance or price basis," it depends. You've got QLC, which has got a terrible endurance, but it can be managed to the point where it makes really good large data read storage. So, if you're doing AI with massive amounts of data, gee, great idea. But, on the other hand, if you're doing a lot of writes, not a great idea. So, it's like any other media -- it's going to have its purpose, it's going to depend on what the workload is, what the application is. So, DRAM has a place. Optane has a place, whether it be as a demo, as a storage class memory. NVMe flash has a place. SLC, MLC, TLC, QLC, they all have a place. It depends on the application and the workload, but it's a media . . . It's not anything more than it's a price performance play, depending on the media. That's it in a nutshell.

29:25 KS: I'll agree completely with what Marc just said. I don't know that I could have put it better.

29:34 CB: No comment adding . . . Nothing to add. Good job. Good job, Marc. We're done.

29:38 JC: Marc, you have the habit of doing this sometimes, kind of making everybody . . . You said it. You said it best. That's really good insight. So, a couple more questions. I want to talk a bit about NVMe. And this is, again, a market that we've been closely watching, and I think about . . . How is NVMe doing amidst this pandemic? And one of the things about NVMe, to really get the benefits of it, you do . . . A lot of companies are finding that they need to invest and to upgrade other parts of their infrastructure -- it's really about sharing the storage. So, I do think, given the current environment, are we going to see companies really embracing this or accelerating their adoption of NVMe and making all of the necessary investments to make it, to see the benefits? Or, do you think it's going to be something that slows down a little bit?

30:35 CB: Yes and no.

30:36 KS: I think NVMe is going to be huge. And you almost have to separate the two technological pieces, although they're about to converge in the spec, which is great news even further for all of NVMe. The original NVMe spec, of course, envision solid-state devices running off a PCI versus sort of more like a back-end technology or integrated directly into the servers, then it was realized pretty quickly that --wait a minute -- this protocol also would lend itself to the front end coming off the network real well, which is what led to NVMe over Fabrics.

See, you got NVMe over Fabrics at version 1.1 in the spec right now, the core original NVMe specs at one point or other, NVMe over Fabrics is at 1.1, NVMe the original specs at 1.4 -- they're about to converge, which is great news, in my opinion for the industry to 2.0. And I believe when that occurs, you are now going to see a massive acceleration for new projects to a Camberley's point and Marc's point earlier as well, and I agree with them completely. People are going to scrutinize, where do I get the value versus the priority things right now and all of that. But whatever point they do decide that they're going to make changes into their infrastructure going forward, NVMe over Fabrics is the way to go, and whether it be whichever transport, whether it's TCP or Fibre Channel or RoCE, there'll be . . .

31:53 KS: I think all of them will likely have a place. TCP is going to be the easiest to deploy because you don't have to change the infrastructure, so that's going to be an almost obvious one. Fibre Channel because of all the huge Fibre Channel infrastructure that's out there, I also believe is huge. And for selective environments, I think RoCE is going to have the place as well.

But in my opinion, you are going to see NVMe over Fabrics -- over probably the next five years -- slowly but surely, from the early adopters, ultimately becoming not only mainstream, but the de facto technology by which high-performance applications and enterprise-class applications talk to enterprise-class storage. So, I think the future for NVMe in a nutshell is not only extremely bright, it is how things are going to get done.

32:39 CB: The question that she has, "Are we going to see this refresh projects coming on?" and the answer I was going to give you is, say yes and a no. The . . . As Marc was saying, this a media, the need for speed will drive the adoption of NVMe and those industries where they are, we'll take whatever you can give them and feed that beast. The rest of the guys is just going to kind of go, "OK, so we go to the next version. The next version happens to be this technology, so therefore this is the next thing we have, and it's all going to be looked at as a price performance number, because in some situations, the speed, they've got enough speed coming at them. Then the other thing you get into is, as Marc was saying, is what is that tiering functionality that we have of all the different media that we have out there, and that's going to drive decisions as well.

33:38 MS: Let me just add one thing to both what you just said Camberley and what you said Ken. The first thing is . . . Let me start with Ken. Yeah, there's going to be convergence at 2.0 for NVMe and NVMe over Fabrics where that's important is the fact that NVMe by itself is limited within the system to the PCIe slots and lanes that you have. So, there's only so many drives you could have in a given socket -- that's No. 1 -- but with the convergence, now you can run NVMe over Fabrics internally as well as externally, and that removes that barrier. So, that's a key factor in its growth in storage systems.

The second thing that Camberley said, and I absolutely agree, it's a matter of what performance do you need for what work or what application? And what is the price? So, if the value is greater than the cost, you do it. If it's not, you don't . . . That simple.

34:31 KS: Makes sense.

34:32 JC: Yeah, it really does make sense. All right, so last question, and then we'll move to our live Q&A portion of this session. But we're hearing a lot that the COVID-19 has just really helped to accelerate IT modernization or digital transformation in some areas. It's like some companies have said, "Oh! Well, we have to fix this now to survive, so we might . . . Let's move faster. Let's get this done." And I feel like this is . . . We're kind of associating this with our third phase of response from the pandemic, it's just a . . . We're calling a catalyst for change.

So, this kind of brings me to this idea of storage modernization. For anybody that's on a journey to sort of modernize their storage, what do you guys think that looks like and what do you think we're going to see? Do you think we're going to see an acceleration of some of these storage modernization projects over the next three to nine months?

35:36 CB: I will take a step back and ask, what's you . . . Step back from storage modernization to ask about, what does IT modernization look like? And we see two elements of IT modernization. Let me get those words out -- one is to continue to reduce costs and simplify, and two is to enable new applications. So, if we take the first one to say, "OK, so what does that mean to the storage guys? How does that drive into a storage modernization that continues the path on to consolidation and everything they're doing to consolidate systems and whatever that means in a particular environment, that means that we're going to see QLC, I think, as a technology that will show up even more because that enables some more consolidation.

36:26 CB: I also think that means that there's going to be more adoption of areas where artificial intelligence impacts the simplicity of systems on the ground. Not necessarily that they're going to pay for it, but they're going to expect it into the system. So, we're going to be having less actual fingers on the keyboard having to do things and the system's doing more things for them.

Second piece on enabling new apps, those areas, the big ones that's coming up behind them, I'm going to hit them pretty hard as the container support and all that containers means to them over the long range varies. The adoption rate is really tiny right now, but it's coming, and so they need to plan for it, and that's going to drive change.

And the second one on there is the multi-hybrid cloud support. I don't know of any enterprise right now that isn't looking at how do you support that environment from a data management standpoint. They've got to look at strategically what does that . . . What are those use cases look like, this enabling the new applications, and how do I get behind that with my data management strategy? I'll pass the button.

37:38 MS: Yeah, I have to agree with you, Camberley. Most of what you said, containers are becoming huge, you're right. Current adoption rate, it's less than 15%, but it was expected to grow tremendously, dramatically this year, and of course, COVID kind of put some crush on it, but I see it coming and it's going to be major. And the reason is the agility, the flexibility to bring it up, to tear it down, to move it, to have that flexibility and storage to go along with that is going to be huge.

The second thing I see on top of that is, again, more and more people are looking to separate the data from the storage and using storage as assets that are tied to a specific workload application, etcetera, instead of the tighten data and the application to the storage, all the time, moving that based on the needs of that application over any given period of time. Again, that flexibility, the agility, the elasticity, the on-demand to control. So, I see that as well. So, data management, I think, is going to be just as important as container management and multi-cloud management.

38:47 KS: You both use some words that I want to amplify, because I agree with both of you strongly, I heard reduced costs, simplify, flexibility, elasticity, agility. I think you've both captured the essence of what's changed and why relative to some of that hybrid cloud deployment. Curiously, I also agree that's going to be critical, and the primary apps I'm seeing going over it and be curious to both your thoughts on it has not been as much. The core enterprise crown jewel applications, as much as it's been mostly a lot of people initially kicking the tires, with backup and archive and basically using a lot of the cloud side of what they're taking off the enterprise apps, Lesser as an extension of those enterprise apps, but more for the backup and archive side.

39:38 CB: You're talking about multi-cloud or are you talking about data management?

39:41 KS: Hybrid cloud.

39:43 CB: OK, multi-hybrid cloud. OK.

39:43 KS: Yeah, so I'm just curious if that's how you're seeing it as well?

39:48 CB: Yes. From the enterprise standpoint, the top use cases are going to be the data protection, the DR and archive. That is not to say the other ones aren't coming behind it, but they are the top ones.

40:00 MS: I agree with both of you. I absolutely agree with both of you, except there's one that I'm seeing a tremendous amount of growth. That's database as a service. I'm seeing enterprises moving a lot of their development to the cloud and using databases in the cloud, whether it's their own license or the cloud providers license as a subscription, but I'm seeing a lot of that. I'm seeing a lot of growth in that. In Oracle's cloud is primarily driven by that database as a service; AWS, huge amounts of people using their RDS, the relational database service, or their NoSQL databases, so I'm seeing more and more of that because people don't want to manage their databases.

40:44 JC: Listen, I hate to say, this has been really fun. Thank you, the three of you for bringing your unique and brilliant perspective to this panel. I think we're about the end of our time and we're going to move to the live Q&A.

Some parting thoughts here. Don't be afraid -- the pandemic may have slowed some things down with regard to storage or maybe shifted some priorities, but there's still a lot of spending happening, and it's so important as an industry for us to be in tune with what enterprises are going through so that we can respond intelligently and help them navigate this going forward. They are going to need smarter and faster infrastructure. They're going to need flexibility, agility, all of the things that you all just talked about to be on this IT modernization journey, so . . . Some great advice, some great insights, thank you again. And will now open it up to questions from anybody from the Flash Memory Summit. Thank you.

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