Four Early Insights from the Forthcoming DCIG 2014-15 Midrange Unified Storage Array Buyer’s Guide

DCIG is preparing to release the DCIG 2014-15 Midrange Unified Storage Array Buyer’s Guide. Although this is a diverse marketplace, there are some themes that emerged as we compared the features being offered in arrays today versus the arrays covered in the 2013 edition of this Buyer’s Guide. Those themes include much larger cache sizes, multiplied storage capacity, public cloud storage connectivity, and support for Microsoft virtualization technologies.
Much larger cache sizes. In 2013, the majority of Midrange Unified Storage Arrays supported a total cache of 96GB or less, and 25% of arrays supported caches greater than 1 TB. Today, those cache numbers are 600 GB and 3 TB respectively. In every case, caches larger than 1 TB are enabled through the use of flash memory as cache.
Large well-implemented caches reduce the average latency of reads and writes, increasing the overall performance of the array. Large caches can also be used to drive down the cost of an array by enabling the use of less expensive and higher-capacity 7.2K RPM hard disk drives in place of 10K or 15K hard disk drives. The benefit to the business is more performance and greater storage capacity for less money, and a smaller storage footprint in the data center.
Multiplied storage capacity. In 2013, the majority of included arrays topped out at 720 GB. Today, the majority of these midrange unified storage arrays support at least 1.8 PB of storage capacity; and 25% of the arrays can scale to more than 4 PB.
This increase in storage capacity maps well to business requirements. According to a January 2014 IDG Enterprise study, the average organization expects its data to grow by 76% in the next 12 to 18 months, with 31% of enterprises expecting to manage more than 1 PB by late 2014.
Public cloud storage connectivity. Nearly 50% of the arrays in the new Buyer’s Guide can connect to the cloud for storage tiering, particularly to Atmos and OpenStack-compatible cloud storage providers. Although there is a thriving marketplace for purpose-built public cloud storage gateways, support for public cloud connectivity in the current crop of midrange unified storage arrays is a reflection of the “jack of all trades” expectations many businesses have for their unified storage solutions.
Support for Microsoft virtualization technologies gaining ground on VMware. A look at the midrange unified storage arrays provides further evidence that Microsoft Windows Server and Hyper-V are making steady inroads into small and midsized enterprise shops.

  • 57% can now be managed from within Microsoft’s System Center console, lagging vSphere/vCenter by just 7%.
  • 48% support SMB 3.0.
  • 43% support Microsoft Windows Offloaded Data Transfer (ODX), a Windows Server 2012 technology that reduces latency and enhances array throughput.

Support for VMware and its various capabilities also continues to grow, with SIOC and VASA making double-digit gains (now supported by 64%) since the 2013 edition of the Buyer’s Guide. Nevertheless, Microsoft is clearly making its presence known in the small and midsized enterprise space.

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