Trends in data storage in 2014 can be boiled down into three data points:
1) Increasing amounts of business and personal content are moving into cloud providers;
2) the software that controls and stores the content is becoming much more intelligent; and
3) prices to store it all continue to come down.
All three of these factoids are connected. This is because cloud services are soaking up so much content that the competition to store it is bringing prices down; this also is indirectly impacting the pricing for storage hardware, causing it also to slip.
Automation—also known as device intelligence—is becoming the No. 1 asked-for feature in these new, lower-priced systems.
Why Pricing Continues to Slide
Amazon, the world's largest storer of data and files in the cloud, lowered several of its subscription rates five times this year and has dropped them 43 times since 2008. Competitors that include Microsoft Azure, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, EMC Mozy and a list of others followed suit.
More intelligence and automation are being built into storage arrays and even smaller, desktop-type storage devices. Enterprise arrays—an increasing number of which are now solid-state NAND flash machines—now know how to identify file formats, judge file size and value, correctly sort the content and send it to the appropriate storage location and device type.
Thanks to this improved automation, new-gen storage networking is identifying and ridding itself of old roadblocks that slowed down workloads, often for hours at a time.
Capacities continue to grow and grow. The world's first 8TB hard drive—built by Seagate Technology—became available in 2014, and a relatively new company named Skyera crammed an astonishing 136TB into a 1U rack-mount form factor. That's a machine only 19 inches wide and two inches deep.
High Capacities on the Horizon
Even higher capacities are on the way for 2015, we're told, thanks to continuing improvements in utilization of storage media and the increasing deployment of converged architectures, which are steadily replacing old-school systems.
Thus, the main trends this year have been great for buyers but still good for vendors. Despite all the cutthroat competition that rules the marketplace, the storage industry in general remains quite healthy.
However, old-line enterprise storage providers such as EMC, NetApp and Hewlett-Packard have seen their sales slow down and/or level off, while newbies such as Pure Storage, Fusion-io, Violin Memory and others have seen sales improve by double- and triple-digit percentages.
Here are some of the notable achievements in data storage during calendar year 2014.
Seagate Technology is now shipping the world's first 8TB hard disk drive to its frontline customers.
Such a large-capacity, industry-standard 3.5-inch storage drive is designed for scale-out data infrastructures that may be struggling to handle the ever-increasing amount of unstructured data that continues to pour into most enterprise systems.
Typical use cases for an 8TB drive would be bulk data storage solutions for online content storage; video and big data applications, such as oil and gas exploration; scientific experiments; weather; and genome research.