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Storage Market Outlook to 2015

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Storage Market Outlook 2010 to 2015.........................................

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - November 12, 2009
If you know what's going to happen in the next 5 years - it's so much easier to prioritize your plans for the year ahead.

This is a time of year when many readers are thinking about their storage marketing plans for 2010.

This planning process takes place against a background of long range assumptions which are more confusing than at any time since September 11, 2001.

I'm often asked for my views by analysts and vendors. Here are some ideas for you to think about.
  • Even if there is a recovery in the US market in 2010 - many segments of storage will decline in the long term and disappear entirely. Yet despite the extinction of many old storage species - overall new storage will expand to become the biggest part of overall hardware budgets in IT, and will replace processors and OS's as the most critical determinator of personality in many consumer electronic products too.
  • 50% of the hard disk market will no longer exist in 5 years, and none of it will exist in 10 years (except in museums). But in the short term some segments (related to disk backup and high capacity video content archiving) will grow in revenue.

    In 2010 some HDD makers will report high revenue growth (compared to the year before period) - but if you compare these to revenues 2 years earlier - these will be seen to be shifts in market share - and it's likely that the total HDD market reached a historic revenue peak in 2008.
  • Fibre-channel storage will remain viable for another 5 years propped up by 16GFC - but this market will continue declining in market share compared to other types of NAS - and FC SAN revenue for rotating storage arrays has probably plateaued already. Despite that - some segments in the SAN market will continue revenue growth - in particular the SAN SSD market - mainly as a service to maintain the usable life of already installed legacy HDD based SANs.
  • The high end of the RAID controller market is going to disappear. There's little point in spending money aggregating IOPS in an array of hard disks - if the result costs more, is slower and is less reliable to operate.

    Some oems, like EasyCo, have been marketing arrays of COTS 2.5" SSDs which use traditional RAID controllers since 2007. But this "open" type of design approach has been a niche within the SSD rackmount market. Controller companies need high volume markets. Within the server accelerator part of the SSD market there are too many performance and design compromises involved in keeping the SSD and RAID controller as separate sub-systems. So fast RAID controller companies have to integrate SSD functionality - or lose this market.

    AMCC 3ware (later acquired by LSI) was the 1st RAID controller to publicly confirm it was working on SSD related products - in May 2008. This was in response to asking all the leading RAID companies what their SSD plans were. Most of them - at that time - didn't seem to realize that the SSD market would soon intersect with their businesses and render their fast controllers irrelevant.

    Viking was one of the 1st oems to include a true SSD (with wear-leveling) as a module for RAID adapters in early 2009. But such solutions merely improve a product type within a declining market - rather than extend the market's life.

    SSD ASAPs - Auto-tuning SSD Accelerated Pools of storage - represent one way for traditional RAID companies to leverage their technology assets garnered from their hard drive experience - while making inroads into the SSD space. It's a new market in which there are no established market leaders.

    PCIe SSDs are the quickest way for HBA companies to enter the SSD market -because of the low technical entry costs. And in January 2010 LSI announced its intentions to enter this market segment - making it approximately the 163rd company to enter the SSD market.
  • The optical storage market will continue to spawn exciting announcements about comebacks as a mainstream storage media - based on what new diodes can do at different combinations of wavelength). But in a 5 year timescale optical drives will cease to be offered as standard peripherals on PCs and will decline in relevance in consumer markets too.
  • SSDs, based on at least 5 distinct memory technologies aimed at different application segments, will continue to surprise, confuse and exasperate users and analysts - by having members in the SSD product population which at the same time include the most reliable and least reliable products in the computer industry. The overall revenue for SSDs in 5 to 10 years will exceed the historic peaks for all type of magnetic storage - as SSD acceleration products cannibalize server CPU, software service and utility budgets.
storage market  analysts directory There are thousands of resources to help you understand what's going in the storage market. Good places to start are the directories on our home page, storage market research & analysts directory, and SSD market analysts.

Later:- June 4, 2010 - a reader said he couldn't see how SSDs would get below high capacity HDDs in TCO - although I thought I had explained the exact technical problems which needed to be solve clearly in my article - this way to the Petabyte SSD.

This was my reply.

If you look at what has been achieved by the 2 storage technologies in the approximate decade 2000 to 2009 (at which point SLC flash SSD could deliver the same capacity - 2TB - in a hard disk form factor)

Hard disk capacity grew 5x

SLC SSD capacity- grew 71x

The magnetic storage media has been on a shallower capacity increase curve than the semiconductor curve. And the semiconductor one can continue at the same fast rate.

The problem when you get to Petabyte storage densities in a relatively small form factor is that magnetic technology cannot deliver useful products.

Magnetic technology would either melt - or only be feasible with access times (like tape libraries) which are 30 to 60 seconds. (Ignoring the more fundamental problem that magnetic recording technology can't scale to these small geometries.)

In contrast SLC flash technology only needs evolutionary changes to support Petabyte disks - and can do so at access times which are useful in storage systems.

At the Petabyte disk level the cost of the electrical and cooling power of HDD technology means that - even if the HDDs were free - the running costs would make them higher than solid state.

If you doubt that Petabyte disks will be in the storage roadmap - just reflect on how storage needs have grown in the past 50 years. And many existing technology trends and technology trends will accelerate the creation of user data.
Past Long Range Storage Predictions

Here are some earlier predictions I made about the storage market.

1998 - I predicted that the storage market would become an important and distinct market in its own right. That's when I launched - which was the 1st storage publication to cover the market as a whole. Hundreds of others followed in the next few years.

2001 - in an article called - the Next Decade in Storage - I foretold the reasons why disk backup would eventually replace tape backup. A market process chronicled here.

2003 - in an article SSDs a $10 Billion Market? - I explained why I thought SSDs had the potential to grow into a huge market - when users recognized their potential to accelerate server applications.

2004 - in an article called - Predicting the Long Term Future of Hard Disks, Tape and Optical Storage - I said "removable optical storage - the descendants of today's DVD drives - may become obsolete."

2005 - I published the SSD Market Adoption Model - which predicted all the major markets in which SSDs would be adopted from notebooks to servers in future years - due to user value propositions which had nothing to do with cost per GB of storage capacity.

Most other analysts and publications at the time didn't understand what I was talking about. But many SSD companies did understand - and these articles on had a major effect on how the market developed in the years which followed their publication.

Also in 2005 - in an article called 7 Years of - looking back / looking ahead - I predicted that storage reliability would become a major factor in the market by 2012. We've already seen in 2009 confidence eroding in the reputation of some manufacturers due their track records of shipping flaky SSDs.

In 2010 we're going to see the 1st Fizzings in the SSD Bubble - as some oems rush to market anything they can ship to avoid the risk of losing out - in what could become a $20 billon / year market within the next few years. We will see a lot more stories about products which didn't work as expected - and may even see whole businesses collapse or suffer badly due to the mis-application of some kinds of SSD technology. "Reliability" - which seemed like such a boringly safe assumption in the past - will become a key factor in future spending plans in the 2011-2012 time-frame.
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HA enterprise SSD arrays
high availabaility SSD arrays Due to the growing number of oems in the high availability / fault tolerant rackmount SSD market earlier this year published a directory dedicated to HA / FT enterprise SSD arrays.

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"With new software and architecture - a single petabyte of enterprise SSD could replace 10 to 50 petabytes of raw HDD storage in the enterprise - and still get all the apps running faster."

meet Ken - and the enterprise SSD software event horizon

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I only write about SSD related topics that I'm thinking about or am interested in. So the last thing I ever thought I'd be doing in the last quarter of 2012 is writing yet another article about hard drives - especially in this slot - the home page of - which has been reserved in recent years for thought leading SSD articles.
How will the hard drive market fare... in a solid state storage world?

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