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Cloud increasingly part of the job for storage professionals

451 Group research finds storage professionals are less concerned with data growth than last year but increasingly likely to have to manage storage capacity in the cloud

Cloud computing is going mainstream, and is beginning to transform roles and priorities within the enterprise data storage infrastructure.

Data from 451 Research’s most recent Voice of the Enterprise (VoTE) storage study suggests storage professionals are no longer wholly preoccupied with adding storage capacity.

Instead, attention is turning to other priorities, most notably ensuring that data and applications are adequately protected in the event of a failure, outage or more serious disaster.

Although respondents to the survey – conducted in January 2017 – still highlighted data/capacity growth as the number one storage pain point, this figure was down almost 10% on a year ago.

Data growth still continues unabated, but the impact of this growth is diminished as organisations utilise a variety of cloud services – in particular, public cloud – to shoulder the burden, especially for backup and archiving. Organisations are increasingly moving to hybrid cloud environments, bringing new providers into the mix (chiefly public cloud providers).

Meanwhile, the survey highlighted some other changes in what remains a turbulent storage market.

Fewer respondents cited high capex costs as a top storage pain point (although it was still cited by almost a quarter), which can be read as evidence of aggressive pricing by storage array makers and makes it a good time to buy storage.

Meanwhile, the number of respondents citing storage performance as a top pain point was down year-on-year – perhaps evidence that the implementation of flash-based technologies is beginning to have an impact on performance challenges.

But in other areas, pain points increased year on year.

Perhaps most notably, the number of respondents citing “growth from new applications” more than doubled year on year, suggesting that many new-style applications – such as big data workloads, container-based applications and micro-services – are now starting to impinge on the storage function as they evolve and become more critical to the business.

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Also significant is that almost one in five respondents said managing data stored in third-party clouds is a top three pain point. This again highlights the changing nature of the storage function.

Just a few years ago, the storage administrator’s task was mostly limited to managing data stored in on-premise storage systems. Now data storage is becoming fragmented across a range of system types and services, on-premise and off-premise, the latter including services such as software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).

The core role of IT infrastructure managers is shifting away from adding capacity and towards managing it more effectively.

Also, some storage managers now have to handle an organisation’s cloud storage capabilities. This is often a steep learning curve, and one that incumbent suppliers can help alleviate by adding broader and more comprehensive cloud-based integration into their offerings.

Finally, we continue to see data protection – especially disaster recovery – cited as a top pain point, and also a top objective within the storage function.

Many organisations – particularly SMEs with fewer resources to throw at comprehensive disaster recovery – still feel inadequately protected against a catastrophic event across their IT estate.

Moreover, the nature of disaster recovery is beginning to change as the type and nature of threats evolves to include more malicious cyber attacks.

Though cloud-based services can certainly provide part of the answer, in many instances it is not a panacea. Individual company requirements vary hugely, and very often a complete solution involves stitching together multiple capabilities into a single service.

Once again, this presents an opportunity for IT providers to innovate, not just on the technology itself, but also in terms of how they partner to meet evolving customer requirements.

451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise service tracks and analyses the disruption occurring in the market today and exposes the major opportunities for enterprises, IT service providers, and suppliers and investors. Continue the conversation with complimentary membership to 451 Research’s Global Digital Infrastructure Alliance, a member-driven network of more than 50,000 highly qualified enterprise technology and IT professionals. Member benefits include a subscription to 451 Global Digital Infrastructure Alliance reports, bi-weekly newsletter, access to the exclusive 451 Alliance member website with free archived reports, and complimentary invitations to 451 Research webinars and events. Join here.

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