Datacentre storage investments: A lesson in future-proofing

In this guest post, Amy Fowler, vice president of strategy and solutions at datacentre hardware provider Pure Storage sets out why enterprises should consider adding unified fast file and object storage to their IT infrastructure mix

As someone who’s been working in the storage industry for a number of years, when a new architecture comes along, it’s fair to say it usually generates a lot of excitement.

Unified Fast File and Object (UFFO) is exactly that. Simply put it’s shaping the future of unstructured data storage as customers increasingly look to meet the demands of modern data.

There are a multitude of straightforward technology benefits to be gained from using a UFFO platform. The most important is known as investment protection, which is critical to enabling customer innovation to happen continuously and without disruption.

This is important when considering the pace of technology change. Historically, the relationship we have with technology providers is the same whether you are a business or a consumer.

Every few years, as the technology develops and offers ever more features, it needs to be replaced. The process is typically painful, and the result is always disruption and slowed innovation.

While that problem is slowly starting to be rectified by incumbent technology providers, many have tried to retrofit new technologies into existing platforms. As a consumer you would not expect to take your old smartphone into a shop and have them keep adding upgrades to your existing phone when newer models are readily available. So why should businesses expect anything different?

For too long businesses have been offered a watered-down version of the latest and greatest. That impacts businesses across four key areas: environment, space, technology and people.

As consumers and generators of data, it’s easy to forget that actual physical datacentres exist. They occupy physical space in our environments, and require significant power and cooling, both of which are very water-intensive.

And while the expansion of data is not restricted by geography, water supply, as a commodity is in fact precious and finite. Too many organisations are still running inefficient, heat-generating spinning disks in their datacentres, which require thousands of pounds to power and cool.

The transition from spinning to solid state media has helped footprints shrink dramatically, but the reality is our environment cannot sustain the effects of storing today’s data on yesterday’s technology.

Even those who have gone all-flash still see data growing exponentially before their eyes, and understand that someday even the cutting-edge tech they’ve invested in today will reach a new environmental limitation.

Space is money

Data takes up space. It has a physical footprint. The more data we generate, the more critical density is to the technology equation. It is imperative that modern businesses are able to consolidate down to the highest density storage available, or risk being overrun by organisational data that has no place to live.

A common problem for modern organisations is the issue of overprovisioning. It’s hard for a business to buy only what they need. Most buy what they feel they need to grow into based on projections – and what the past 12 months have shown is that projections can fluctuate wildly.

Needs change, though, and different parts of an organisation might grow at different speeds. This results in data silos, some operating well below capacity, while others run up against the limits of theirs. One of the key benefits of UFFO is shared capacity that eliminates silos, which inherently provides a reduction in unused physical space.

On top of that, customers that can consume IT resources on an as-a-service basis can drive even better efficiency by never paying for unused real-estate.

Unstructured data is growing at an exponential rate and enterprises are estimated to triple their file and object data requirements within the next three years. That means for the vast majority of organisations, what they have in their datacentres now simply will not cut it.

Technology for Today and Tomorrow

Then there is the technology itself. Organisations must answer the question, “What can this technology do for me today and tomorrow?” before any investment is made. Modern data, which exists across a wide spectrum and looks vastly different from one workload to the next, is driving an industry-wide need for a unified platform. A business might need a platform for file storage today, for example, but in a few weeks, months or years, they might need it for object storage.

Today, we see an ever-increasing demand for fast file storage across our customer base. As fast object approaches mainstream, we are seeing similar demand from the same users who have demonstrated a singular preference for file.

The vast majority of organisations have at least some need for fast file today, and a growing number have workloads and data pipelines that require both file and object on the same continuum. There is a long list of fast file applications and ever-expanding scenarios in which fast object simply must come into play.

As organisations find opportunities to consolidate fast file workloads, they should be on the lookout for solutions that can fulfil those fast object requirements in a single platform without compromise.

Power Your People

And finally, with all of the tools at our disposal today, it’s easy to forget that the most important part of any organisation is its workforce. Technology can play a central role in keeping employees happy, productive, fulfilled, and even supported. Would you want to work for a company with old tools, antiquated technology and decrepit infrastructure? Investments in infrastructure can have wide-reaching implications for everyone who depends on it.

All the applications and workloads dependent on that storage have workloads that are impacted by that infrastructure decision. The more inclined an organisation is to deploy modern technology to empower employees to do their jobs more effectively, the bigger the win-win, with ultimate effects on sales, customers and end-users.

Take an example of a data scientists or data analysts who have to interact with storage and IT infrastructure frequently. They need it to be intuitive, reliable and fast, so that they’re not solving IT problems or waiting for critical analytics reports. If the technology takes too long, or the process itself is cumbersome, the opportunity is missed.

Employees in today’s fast-paced business environment want and need to feel enabled by the tools at their disposal, or they will find somewhere else to ply their trade.

Today, in a hyper-competitive market that is being strained by an unprecedented level of disruption to daily life, investment protection is non-negotiable. A fully-enabled, fulfilled workforce with the best available tools at their disposal is ready for success.

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