Downturn to dull flash, Ethernet storage

Cost-conscious storage environment will see firms pass over solid-state drives and delay switch to Fiber Channel over Ethernet, says HDS CTO.
Written by Vivian Yeo, Contributor

SINGAPORE--The economic slowdown is expected to dampen deployment of storage initiatives such as switching to Fiber Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) infrastructures and flash-based platforms, according to an industry veteran.

Hu Yoshida, chief technology officer at Hitachi Data Systems, told ZDNet Asia in an interview Monday, the downturn has retarded the acceptance of most new technologies within the enterprise storage environment.

Solid-state drives (SSDs), for instance, will remain niche due to the cost of flash, which is about 10 times that of rotating hard disks. Spinning disks are deemed "good enough" for businesses in the current state of economy, Yoshida pointed out.

"If times were good and you could have money for capital investments, people would invest in [flash technology]," he noted. "But with this economy, I think it's going to put a squash on it."

On top of cost issues, businesses are also concerned about the durability and lifespan of flash, as well as the types of applications or tasks optimized for flash platforms, he added.

More work also needs to be put into the implementation of flash-based storage, he said. "Currently, it's just new technology put into an old format--you're not really seeing the benefit of it," Yoshida said.

Similarly, the move toward an Ethernet-based storage area network (SAN) will also be somewhat affected by the slower business climate, he said.

Currently, Fiber Channel is commonly deployed in SANs, but with FCoE, the gigabit-speed network technology can run directly over Ethernet infrastructures.

Noting that businesses would not be willing "to rip out their infrastructure in this type of economy", Yoshida noted that there will be a delay in the switch to FCoE from the current Fiber Channel-based standards.

Pressures in a cost-conscious climate, however, will drive technologies such as virtualization and thin provisioning in the enterprise, as these will provide significant benefits, he said. For example, having an enterprise-grade virtualization engine at the front-end will allow companies to purchase lower-cost modular storage instead of enterprise-grade storage.

Big on cloud
According to Yoshida, the cloud will provide a "big opportunity" for storage vendors.

Hybrids of business models that range from messaging to social networking, pose different requirements and call for storage capabilities at different price points, he noted.

In addition, these online content depots are expected to reach exabytes in size, some of which will require enterprise-type availability. "It also opens up another market for perhaps more lower-cost, larger capacity systems," he said.

Rather than compete directly with online storage providers, however, Yoshida said HDS will continue to focus on being an infrastructure provider that supports these online market players.

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