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Storage - 2023 a year in review and what's in store for 2024

Storage industry analysts are saying that 2023 will be remembered for its historic downturn in demand. This may be so, due to hyperscaler digestion of previous year’s capacity shipments. But a few things remain constant, such as the growth of data driven by the proliferation of new applications in the digital data sphere and things like data intensive AI/ML. You can also add in the steady expansion of IoT including video surveillance applications. Another constant is the increasing value of data that users want to keep more of and for longer periods of time. Users also want ready online access to that data giving rise to the popularity of cost-effective and energy-efficient active archive solutions. So here are my highlights for 2023 and really bold predictions for 2024!

Looking Back at 2023

  • AI/ML Took the Spotlight If sustainability took the spotlight at the IT trade show circuit in 2022, it was AI/ML that replaced it in 2023. The IT industry has geared up to support AI/ML and for good reason as studies show that 79% of organizations have already or will soon invest in AI/ML capabilities. What will need further attention is the prudent management of increasing computational resources and related energy consumption to support AI/ML workloads. How to cost-effectively and efficiently store the vast amounts of data that support and get generated by AI/ML will be another problem to solve once the hype fades and reality sets in.

  • Sustainability Moved from Spotlight to Priority While AI/ML pushed sustainability from the center stage spotlight, energy conservation and carbon footprint reduction became a working priority. Chief Sustainability Officers became the new CSO while heavy contributors of CO2e in storage like SSDs and HDDs made good faith efforts to improve and promote sustainability. Meanwhile, it was another year, another COP international meeting on climate change. Coming out of COP 27 in Egypt, we heard that energy efficiency and energy conservation is the most impactful way to respond to the climate crisis. The Glasgow Pact Decision from COP 26 called upon Parties to rapidly scale up the deployment of clean power generation and energy efficiency measures. We need to see announcements that show that countries and companies are rapidly moving towards these goals. We are way off course to keep warming to 1.5oC and time is rapidly running out for us to take transformative action to avoid the most appalling and irreversible damages to society and ecosystems. Simply turning off the office lights at day’s end is better than not doing so. And moving cold and inactive data from energy intensive disks to modern data tape systems that consume 87% less energy and produce 97% less CO2e than hard disk drives makes sense too.

  • 50 TB Tape Debut is a Bellwether for Tape Technology Fujifilm and IBM announced the development of a record capacity 50 TB native tape system featuring IBM’s new TS1170 drive and 3592 JF tape cartridge produced by Fujifilm. This unprecedented 2.5X leap in capacity compared to the previous generation TS1160 drive and 3592 JE media was made possible in part by the deployment of a new hybrid magnetic particle mix of current generation Barium Ferrite and next gen Strontium Ferrite in the new 3592 JF media. With the 26 or so zettabytes that must be stored by the end of this decade, the industry will need large amounts of SSD, HDD and tape systems to manage valuable data throughout its lifecycle. Being able to store data that quickly goes cold, but can’t be deleted, means tape will play an increasingly important role. Providing cost effective, sustainable and secure tape solutions well into the future is great news for the IT industry and the availability of 50 TB tape is a bellwether for tape technology.

  • Tape Matters in Cyber Security According to a 2023 Veeam report, the 2023 Global Report on Ransomware Trends, only 16% of victims were able to recover from an attack without paying the ransom. To do that, they had to have recoverable data within their backup repositories which means that the data was immutable or air-gapped. In 2023, it was very achievable for backup data to be immutable across its entire data protection lifecycle, including short term disk, within BC/DR capable clouds and long term tape storage. According to this particular survey, 14% of respondents said they utilize offline air-gapped tape.

  • Flape Still in the Conversation In 2023, the trade show circuit was not without the concept of “Flape”, that is to say flash + tape in order to optimize storage performance and costs. Flash and tape systems are complementary and organizations can eliminate the middle tier of costly, energy intensive HDD and simply rely on a flash layer for its outstanding performance gains, micro latency, macro efficiency and enterprise reliability. And then use tape for best data streaming performance, unequaled cost-effectiveness, high capacity, scalability and low power consumption and footprint.

Looking Ahead to 2024

In 2024 we can expect a continuing dominance of AI/ML in the headlines. A key question for the storage community is not how to leverage AI/ML, but rather what to do with the vast amount of associated data? Another related question will be around cloud vs. on-prem solutions with the notion of cloud repatriation making a comeback since being put on hold during the great pandemic. In a hybrid solution with S3 compatible tape, users can have the best of both worlds. Below are our 5 predictions for 2024:

  • AI/ML Data Deluge Generates Demand for Active Archiving AI/ML will have a profound impact on the need for all types of storage. AI and ML applications work with and produce huge amounts of data and organizations will want to maintain access to data sets for longer periods of time to support a continuous cycle of data ingest, analytics and inference. When AI/ML data sets get cool or cold, a dramatic increase in readily accessible, but cost-effective and energy-efficient storage capacity in the form of active archives will be demanded to support this model. An active archive solution can leverage the unique performance and economic benefits of SSDs, HDDs, tape, or the cloud (public or private) in a single virtualized storage pool.

  • Large Scale Tier 2 Data Centers Increase Tape Adoption Taking a cue from the largest and most successful cloud operations, an increasing number of large scale “tier 2” data center operations including secondary cloud service providers will follow the leaders and deploy on-premises tape systems. This may take the form of standard S3 compatible object storage on modern tape systems to facilitate true hybrid infrastructure, getting the most out of on-prem plus cloud. Having your own instance of cold storage on-prem reduces cost, latency and risk while maintaining flexibility and compatibility with the big cloud service providers.

  • Video Surveillance Market Will Benefit from LTO Tape The storage of video surveillance content is reaching a crisis as data intensive, high definition cameras proliferate while users want longer retention periods. Solutions will continue to emerge in 2024 that combine high speed HDD storage with efficient LTO tape storage to create a 2 tier strategy that balances cost, speed, and long-term retention needs. In the “active tier”, high-speed hard disk storage manages the most recent video content. In the “active archive tier”, high capacity LTO tape technology can be leveraged for the long-term retention of video content, providing a cost-effective, energy-efficient, and reliable solution. This ensures access to older video footage while relieving expensive and energy-intensive high speed storage in the active tier.

  • Strategic Data Management Will Support Sustainability Initiatives Strategic data management will mean storage optimization in 2024 and doing so will support energy conservation. The need for storage optimization arises from the ever-increasing volumes of data that organizations generate and retain, sometimes indefinitely. But as data accumulates, the cost of storing it and the amount of energy to support it can become significant, especially in large-scale enterprises or data-intensive applications. Analysts widely agree that 60% to 80% of data quickly becomes cold with little or no access frequency after 90 to 120 days. Yet a disproportionate amount of data remains on energy intensive hard disk drives due to inertia and a lack of strategic data management. This will increasingly change in 2024 as the energy efficiency, cost and reliability of automated tape systems becomes a strategic imperative.

  • Cybercrime Attacks Will Not Subside 2023 looks set to be another record-breaking year for ransomware. In the first half of the year research suggests that publicized attacks represented a 49% increase over the first six months of 2022. Pressure is mounting from the Federal government, to Wall Street to cyber insurance companies to stakeholders for IT teams to baton down the hatches against hackers. Cyber security is a multi-faceted discipline to be sure. But at the end of the day, simply having mission critical data offline and offsite, protected by a true physical airgap will be required. Studies show that anywhere from 7% to 20% of survey respondents say they use tape to leverage its affordable and easy to implement air gap feature. Expect this percentage to increase in 2024, you can bet your bottom bitcoin on it!

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