What’s Happening In The Storage Business According To HPE’s Phil Davis

The storage market is in flux. Spinning drives are being usurped by flash storage and software defined storage is emerging as a challenger to purpose-built storage arrays. We spoke with Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Head of Storage in the Asia Pacific and Japan region, Phil Davis about what he’s seeing with storage technologies.

As the Head of Storage for HPE in the Asia Pacific and Japan region, Phil Davis is responsible for one of the main sections within HP’s new enterprise business.

“If you look at the storage market over the last 25 years, there have been three major technologies that have underpinned storage. One has been disk drives as the primary media everyone has written to. The second has been around high-end, proprietary, monolithic storage that started as mainframe attached storage. And the third piece has been purpose-built physical storage arrays that have custom hardware”.

Davis says that all three of those fundamental pillars are now in transition. Flash is replacing the hard disk drive, moving from a niche into the mainstream. He notes HP is selling more flash capacity than 15K drives.

The high-end market for monolithic storage is shrinking with IDC reporting sales in that market falling by 25 per cent last quarter.

Davis is seeing the beginning of software defined storage taking over the purpose-built physical storage array market. He thinks that shift will take place over the next three to five years.

Unlike many shifts that often start with large companies and filter down to smaller ones over time, Davis expects the software defined storage market to gain momentum is the SMB and mid-range markets where virtualisation has a much higher penetration. For those users, accustomed to defining their servers and other infrastructure through software, the transition to doing the same with their storage is relatively painless.

Although there are lots of benefits in going to software defined storage it’s not a universal solution.

“If it was a panacea everyone would be doing it,” says Davis.

Purpose-built storage devices offer much higher levels of performance which remain critical for many workloads.

“I can set quality of service metrics. I can set service level agreements. I’ve got reliability. I’ve got security. And today there are still trade-offs along those dimensions with software defined. That’s why software defined is a very small proportion of the overall storage market today”.

In Davis’ view, vendors will address those issues over the next three to five years but given the advances that continue to be made in physical storage, he thinks it will be at least a decade before software defined dominate the market completely.

One of the other trends Davis is seeing is how the way storage is managed and provisioned by public cloud providers is making its way to corporate data centres. Many of his customers don’t want to physically provision cables when they need storage and press a button to apply changes and be able to move workloads around as needed.

Part of the challenge in making that work is to have all of the different types of storage that’s available in the data centre manageable from one interface. Davis told us the reason HP has been relatively late in coming to the flash storage game is they chose to develop their flash storage solutions in-house rather than through acquisition in order to optimise interoperation between newer storage, legacy storage and different media.


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