Top SMB data storage technology trends for 2011

Get insights from expert Marc Staimer as he predicts the top SMB data storage technology trends for the new year – and see how his 2010 predictions panned out.

By Marc Staimer

It's crystal ball time again. Here's Dragon Slayer Consulting's forecast of the top 10 small- to medium-sized business (SMB) data storage technology trends for 2010. But before we get into this year's results, be sure to check out how we did on last year's predictions of the hottest data storage technologies for SMBs.

1. Primary storage data reduction will be popular with SMBs. Low-cost data reduction technologies from vendors such as Balesio and Neuxpower Solutions will become popular and help drive the trend. New Ocarina products from Dell providing low-cost unstructured data deduplication that works with compressed and uncompressed files will also help drive that trend. These products are designed for primary storage data reduction. They are able to significantly reduce already compressed files that deduplication and compression cannot reduce.

2. Low-cost enterprise-class multi-level cell (MLC) flash will be bought by more SMBs. With a price-performance curve that makes it a compelling value proposition for performance-hungry

 structured applications, expect these to be in use in more SMBs.

3.  NFS will become the most prominent VMware storage for SMBs. SAN storage vendors may not like that prediction, but it is based on some pretty sound logical reasoning. NFS is built into VMware. NFS is the easiest VMware storage to set up, operate and manage. NFS is optimized for random IOPS, which are what virtual machine IOPS look like. A bold prediction? Maybe not.

4. All-in-one backup appliances will make significant inroads into the SMB market. An all-in-one backup appliance includes backup and recovery software, dedupe, disk storage and, in some cases, tape. It's meant to be a plug-and-play device for small businesses that's "brain-dead" simple.

5. Cloud backup and recovery will continue to become compelling for SMBs because costs continue to decline rapidly, making its value proposition hard to resist. Operationally, it is similar to purchasing an electrical service, a phone service or an Internet service. Cloud backup and recovery has become a utility that just makes sense for most SMBs that take a hard look at it.

6. SMB storage costs will be increasing more than it has in the past for 2011. Yes, Virginia, HDD capacity gains have slowed. The era of 100% increases in HDD capacity each year, and an average annual decline in price per gigabyte of 36% are a thing of the past. Capacity gains still mean a reduction in price per gigabyte, but not enough of a gain to keep storage costs in check with the continued growth in storage consumption. Expect only a 50% increase in capacity for 2011 for the largest SATA drives (3 TB). Simple math calculations show that this equals higher overall SMB storage costs for 2011.

7. Cloud storage gateways will become very appealing for SMBs in 2011 from an operational and economic aspect. The gateways are designed to be primary storage that automatically moves older less-accessed data to the cloud. It keeps a small onsite storage footprint with a huge backend capacity. Expect this to be a very viable option for SMBs in 2011.

8. Acquisitions were a major trend for SMB storage vendors in 2010. Expect that trend to continue in 2011. It is tremendously faster and far less expensive for larger storage vendors to acquire innovative startups than it is for them to innovate. That trend appears to be picking up steam for 2011. What that means for SMBs are fewer vendors providing choices, but with less price competition. Overall SMBs should see nominal price (not cost) increases. Unfortunately, there will be less downward pricing pressure as well.

9. Emergence of the virtual data center for SMBs. In other words, no onsite infrastructure, servers, storage, etc. The SMB data center lives in the cloud. The applications, data, storage, data protection, etc. all live on cloud service providers. Don't expect this to be a major SMB trend in 2011 because of the immaturity of all the technologies; however, it will be intriguing to early adopters.

10. No matter your opinion of tape, it will continue to be the SMB's primary backup and recovery medium because of perceived low cost. But its market share is declining and will continue to decline in 2011.

I hope you have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.

About the author: Marc Staimer is the founder, senior analyst, and CDS of Dragon Slayer Consulting in Beaverton, OR. The consulting practice of more than 12 years has focused in the areas of strategic planning, product development and market development. With more than 30 years of marketing, sales and business experience in infrastructure, storage, server, software and virtualization, he's considered one of the industry's leading experts. Marc can be reached at marcstaimer@mac.com.

This was first published in December 2010

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