What We Can Learn About Storage from the Smartphone Evolution

Ten years ago, you would have needed a large duffel bag to carry all the bulky equipment needed to approximate the functionality in one of today’s 6-ounce smartphones. Open up that duffel bag, and you would have found a Polaroid camera for capturing images for instant viewing. You’d also find a shoulder-mount camcorder for taking videos, your Walkman and tapes for listening to music, your beeper so people could find you immediately, your personal digital assistant, your laptop computer, your wristwatch and your brick mobile phone. Hauling all that stuff around might have led to back problems, but who knew any better? Few of us imagined a future in which one device would deliver the capabilities of all of those products. Then Apple introduced the smartphone.

The storage market is at a similar turning point today. For decades, the industry accepted the data center version of that giant duffle bag. Primary storage is solely a data receptacle. If you want to backup, govern, search or get insight from your data, then you have to layer applications on top of your storage. Never mind that install-and-crawl post processing affects primary I/O, layered systems are difficult to manage, and there is significant latency in search and discovery process results. And the midmarket can’t afford or maintain these mashed-together systems in the first place. This is just the way it always was, and few are imagining something better. Then DataGravity introduced data-aware storage.

The shift to data-aware storage today mirrors the way smartphones reshaped telephony almost a decade ago. In 2006, users measured the quality of their mobile phones in terms of signal strength, clarity, battery duration and size. Within only a couple of years, the whole definition of a quality mobile phone changed to include Web access, apps, music, messaging and more. Similarly, the storage status quo is swinging from IO operations per second (IOPS), capacity and cost to insights, governance and self-protection. People are expecting more from their storage.

This change is long overdue. As Midsize Insider reported in an article quoting industry analyst Stephen Foskett:

“’Storage arrays don’t have any information about what data is. They just know to store it,’ Foskett commented, likening the information on an array to a warehouse filled with identical unmarked cardboard boxes. As a result, too much processing overhead is still spent finding and reassembling data in a usable form.”

The move away from that is a fundamental change in an industry that has seen only incremental improvements over the last generation. As Andreessen Horowitz Partner Peter Levine put it on the day DataGravity launched its Discovery Series to bring together disparate data storage functionality into a single platform, “So here we are today at an amazing inflection point in the history of storage. Twenty years from now, we’ll look back at this day as the day storage went from being dumb to being smart.”

It took several years for smartphones to surpass “dumb” mobile phones in terms of sheer sales numbers. Gartner says that happened in 2013, six years after Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer laughed off the idea that any business users would ever view the iPhone as a “very good email machine.” The total shake up of market expectations will play out much more quickly in the data center, where storage administrators have long expressed frustration with the limitations of siloed applications. These IT pros and the business users they serve want smart storage that can deliver time, user and content-aware insights, and it won’t be long before that desire turns into flat out expectation.

451 Research is calling DataGravity a “category-defining product” – what do you think the future of storage holds?

Want to learn how DataGravity is redefining the storage status quo? Check out our e-book, “If Your Data Could Talk, What Would it Say?

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Jeff Boehm

Jeff Boehm

Jeff Boehm was the vice president of marketing at DataGravity for 2 years. Jeff brought more than 20 years of experience with a rare combination of marketing skills, organizational leadership and technical background to DataGravity, having shaped the BI and search markets working for industry pioneers and disrupters.