​When does storage give way to the cloud, software?

It's just a matter of time before traditional data center storage systems are moved to the cloud. The rush to the cloud isn't underway yet, but signs are emerging.

Is EMC the canary in the enterprise storage coal mine as the cloud becomes more of an option?

Perhaps. EMC's second quarter earnings and 2015 revised outlook noted what could be construed as a turning point for the traditional storage market.

"We saw customers become more conservative around refreshing their traditional infrastructures as they plan their IT transformations," said EMC CEO Joe Tucci.

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Now there are good reasons for being conservative: Currency fluctuations and geopolitical unrest are issues for any global company. However, what Tucci is really getting at is the reality that enterprises are going digital. And these enterprises may go digital via the cloud or software defined assets instead of their own infrastructure.

Rival NetApp has also had a series of rough quarters and analysts aren't expecting much. Pick apart your data center---servers, networking gear and storage---and you'll find that every component is under fire either by the cloud or software that squeezes more out of hardware.

Storage, critical since its used for everything from backups to customer data to analytics, has been protected from the cloud disruption for a while. Governance, regulations and the cost to move data around are reasons that storage has been an on-premise affair.

But like everything the cloud touches, demand starts small and builds.

In our special report on enterprise storage, Tech Pro Research looked at some of the moving parts. The key findings are that decision makers still prefer local storage, but are increasingly eyeing cloud options. Consider the following charts, which are based on a Tech Pro survey of 126 IT decision makers.

storage-technologies-currently-in-use.jpg

Of those folks looking into the cloud, the vendor preferences go like this:

public-cloud-storage-preferences.png

And for IT buyers that prefer on-premises storage, the vendor preferences go like this:

on-prem-storage-vendor-preferences.png

Clearly, storage is going to stay a hybrid affair for enterprises today. Over time, storage will increasingly move to the cloud. Today, big data means storage upgrades to solid state systems. Once that cycle plays out, the cloud will be more of an option.

new-storage-technologies.png

Data isn't going away and you're only going to collect more. As a result, more companies are going to tinker with de-facto high performance computing systems. The catch is that those HPC-ish systems are expensive. You'll ultimately see companies renting capacity in the cloud to crunch numbers.

My hunch: Storage will slowly and somewhat quietly move to the cloud over time. Software defined infrastructure will mean data will go where it's most efficient. Sure some storage will reside in your own data center, but a lot of it will go cloud. I expect Tech Pro's findings to look a lot different in a few years.

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. As a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

Previously on Monday Morning Opener: