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THE FUTURE OF STORAGE

Data volumes are growing, access requirements are changing business expectations are escalating. These are the issues that define the storage world. With this in mind, we would like your views on how requirements are evolving, and particularly how well storage suppliers are meeting your needs. So get stuck into our latest reader survey, and as usual, we will report back once we’ve crunched the numbers and formed some conclusions.

1. ABOUT YOU AND YOUR ORGANISATION

1.1 Which of the following best describes your role (tick the first that applies)?

1.2 What is the size of your organisation?

1.3 In which industry does your organisation primarily operate?

1.4 Which country do you work in?

 

2. YOUR STORAGE ENVIRONMENT

We would like to start with some questions about your online storage environment. What we mean by this is storage in the network, rather than capacity held on client machines (e.g. PCs, tablets, smartphones) or residing off-line (e.g. tape, optical, etc.). So basically we are interested in NAS, SAN, server-attached storage and hosted storage that is managed as an extension of your infrastructure (e.g. as part of a co-location or cloud hosting arrangement).

2.1 Approximately how much physical storage would you say you have in total if you add up the capacity of all of the storage platforms you use?

2.2 How much of this storage would you characterise as Tier 1, i.e. particularly resilient and/or high performing media to support more demanding applications?

2.3 Looking across your storage estate, to what degree do you use the following?

 
Extensive use
Some use
Little or no use
Unsure
Network Attached Storage (NAS)
Storage Area Networks (SAN)
Server attached storage
Multi-tier configurations (manual management of data distribution across different tiers of storage)
Multi-tier configurations (automated management of data distribution across tiers of storage)
Storage virtualisation solutions (controllers that pool homogeneous or heterogeneous storage)
Self-managing storage appliances
Solid state/flash storage (in any enterprise context)
Scale-out storage configurations
Hosted storage capacity (co-location or cloud)
Offline storage capacity (e.g. tape, optical, etc)

2.4 How do you expect this level of use will change over the next 3 years (compared to today)?

 
Much higher
Higher
No change
Lower
Much lower
Unsure/NA
Network Attached Storage (NAS)
Storage Area Networks (SAN)
Server attached storage
Multi-tier configurations (manual management of data distribution)
Multi-tier configurations (automated management of data distribution)
Storage virtualisation solutions
Self-managing storage appliances
Solid state/flash storage
Scale-out storage configurations
Hosted storage capacity
Offline storage capability (e.g. tape, optical, etc)

2.5 Considered overall, how would you sum up the state of your storage environment?

3. ORGANISING AND MANAGING THE ENVIRONMENT

3.1 How much are the following involved in storage-related planning and administration?

 
Extensively
Significantly
To a limited degree
Not at all
Unsure
Storage specialists
Applications specialists
Server and desktop virtualisation specialists
Database administrators
Multi-skilled IT staff
Third party resources (e.g. under a managed service arrangement)
Other skills/resources (please specify)

3.2 How do you see this changing, if at all over the coming 2 years as technology and needs evolve, e.g. control moving away from or towards specialist storage administrators?

 

3.3 How much is storage organised and managed in the following ways?

 
Almost always
Frequently
Sometimes
Never
Unsure
On an application by application basis
As a shared resource within discrete pools or clusters of servers
As shared storage resource pools supporting multiple applications
Other (please specify)

3.4 How do you expect this will have changed in 2 years' time?

 
Much higher
Higher
No change
Lower
Much lower
Unsure/NA
Storage allocated to specific applications
Storage allocated to discrete pools or clusters of servers
Shared storage resource pools supporting multiple applications
Other (please specify)

3.5 What would you estimate your current level of physical storage capacity utilisation to be in relation to the following?

 
More than 90%
75% to 90%
50% to 75%
25% to 50%
Less than25%
Unsure/NA
Tier 1 storage
Other online storage

4. PRACTICAL STORAGE RELATED CHALLENGES

4.1 How would you describe the following challenges associated with your storage infrastructure and its management?

 
Historical issue - now ok
Significant ongoing problem
Ongoing distraction
Becoming an issue
No issue
Unsure/NA
Under-utilisation of capacity
High management overhead
Service level shortfalls
High failure rates
Lengthy time to recovery

4.2 How important is consistency of storage performance as physical storage capacity utilisation grows?

4.3 As a rule of thumb for your existing storage platforms, on average what utilisation threshold would you normally expect to have to stay below to avoid performance problems?

4.4 Coming back to the hardware side of things, how much would you agree or disagree with the following statements in relation to the use of RAID configurations in particular?

 
Strongly agree
Agree
Neutral
Disagree
Strongly disagree
Unsure/NA
We rely on RAID configurations as part of our data protection strategy
Failure of drives in RAID configurations occurs too frequently for comfort
Rebuild times following disk failure and replacement are a major distraction for us
Rebuild times following disk failure and replacement are a major risk to the business
RAID recovery/rebuilds fail far too often
The impact of RAID-related challenges can be minimised by using higher-quality disks with a lower failure rate
We actually use higher-quality disks to minimise the impact of RAID-related challenges versus high capacity, low cost SATA or nearline SAS drives.

4.5 Do you have any general comments or experiences in relation to your own use of RAID?

 

Turning to another emerging idea, applications, hypervisors and operating systems are now available to create a fully operative and resilient storage system that’s functionally similar to many proprietary big-brand solutions, but built from commodity servers and commodity disks. This approach allows you to mix and match the grade of components to meet your operational needs. This is often termed 'Software Defined Storage' (SDS).

4.6 Would you naturally associate the term ‘software defined storage’ with any of the following?

4.7 Do you see a role for this kind of software-defined, hardware based storage approach in your environment?

4.8 On the question of ‘Software Defined Storage’, if you are considering using such an approach, or are already doing so, what factors encouraged your adoption? If you are not considering such solutions, what is holding you back?

 

4.9 Do you have any additional thoughts on the software-defined, hardware based approach to building storage systems?

 

5. INVESTMENT AND REFRESH

In our last main section, we'd like to finish off with some questions around how you are managing the evolution of your storage infrastructure going forward...

5.1 How much do the following influence your storage investment and refresh plans?

 
5 - Extensively
4
3
2
1 - Not at all
Need for more capacity in general (i.e. to keep up with data growth across the board)
New and changing application needs (e.g. different types of data, different access requirements)
New and changing business expectations (e.g. in relation to performance and availability)
Need for more flexibility (e.g. to respond more rapidly to changing business needs)
Evolving operational requirements (e.g. to streamline the administration and management)
Increased emphasis on risk management (e.g. relating to security and data protection)
Desire to keep up with technology developments and remain future proof
Other (please specify)

5.2 Which of the following would you regard as significant factors that defer or inhibit major storage refresh projects? (Please tick all that apply)

5.3 Regardless of the influences, how frequently do you end up purchasing storage under the following circumstances?

 
5 - Common practice
4
3
2
1 - Not at all
In response to a new application requirement
In response to broader infrastructure changes, e.g. server virtualisation
At contract expiry or renewal time
When a major failure occurs
When equipment starts to become too troublesome on an ongoing basis
When equipment becomes obsolete from the feature/function perspective
When a supplier offers a particularly attractive trade-in deal
Need for a performance upgrade due to new server infrastructure
Other (please specify)

5.4 How would you characterise the following budget and commercial challenges in relation to your storage infrastructure?

 
Historical issue - now ok
Significant ongoing problem
Ongoing distraction
Becoming an issue
No issue
Unsure/NA
Senior budget holders not appreciating the need to invest
Budgets generally not keeping up with growth in demand
Budgets/funding too siloed, constraining consolidation and sharing
Commercial practices of storage vendors not well aligned with requirements
Keeping hardware costs under control
Keeping software costs under control
Keeping support and maintenance costs under control
Insufficient warranty periods on storage hardware

5.5 Picking up on this last point, what's the typical warranty period and storage hardware offered by vendors in your experience?

5.6 And bearing in mind factors such as natural degradation on the one hand, and technology advancements on the other, on average what would you say is a reasonable lifetime to expect for storage hardware nowadays?

5.7 On average, how long is the total lifetime you expect your existing storage hardware to have?

5.8 When storage devices are decommissioned from their current use, how frequently do you do the following?

 
5 - Common practice
4
3
2
1 - Not at all
Recycle it to other internal uses
Return it to the original vendor for recycling
Sell it or give it to a third party for recycling
Scrap it yourself (so it cannot be used again)
Pass it to a third-party for scrapping
Other (please specify)

5.9 Coming back to vendor commercial practices, how compelling or desirable would you regard the following types of offering to be?

 
5 - Compelling
4
3
2
1 - No Interest
Pay by capacity utilisation
Thin provisioning
Remote storage management services
Longer warranty periods
Cost-effective warranty extension

5.10 Turning to storage suppliers themselves, how much have you used the following over the PAST 2 years?

 
5 - Extensively
4
3
2
1 - Not at all
Big brand storage/infrastructure vendors
Smaller vendors who specialise in specific areas
Managed service providers (for storage solutions running on your site)
Hosting companies (for storage related needs)
Cloud Storage
Others (please specify)

5.11 Bearing in mind everything we have discussed, how much do you anticipate using the following over the NEXT 2 years?

 
5 - Extensively
4
3
2
1 - Not at all
Big brand storage/infrastructure vendors
Smaller vendors who specialise in specific areas
Managed service providers (for storage solutions running on your site)
Hosting companies (for storage related needs)
Cloud Storage
Others (please specify)

5.12 If you could pass a message on to any or all of these suppliers about their commercial practices or the way they engage, what would it be?

 

6. AND FINALLY

6.1 How much would you agree or disagree with the following statements?

 
Strongly agree
Agree
Neutral
Disagree
Strongly disagree
Unsure/NA
Our current storage environment meets today’s business needs very well
Our current storage environment is easy and cost-effective to operate
Our current storage environment sets us up well for the future
Our existing storage suppliers have met our needs well over the past 2 years
Our existing storage suppliers are well placed to meet our needs over the coming 2 years
Storage management will become much simpler over the coming 2 years as technology evolves
The need for specialist storage skills and resources will diminish as technology evolves
More of our storage will move into the cloud over time
Ultimately, all data will be stored in the cloud

6.2 Any final thoughts?