It was All About the Petabytes at the NAB Show

A little over a decade ago when I told people that I was managing three (3) storage arrays with eleven (11) TBs of storage under management, people looked at me with a mixture of shock and awe. Fast forward to 2015 and last week’s NAB conference in Las Vegas, NV, and it was hard to find many storage vendors who even wanted to have a conversation with a customer unless it had at least a petabyte of data under management.
The NAB show is the media and entertainment industry’s largest event by far with an estimated 100,000+ people in attendance. (Yes, you read that correctly – one hundred thousand plus people.) Filling up every exhibit hall in the Las Vegas Conference Center with over 1 million square feet of exhibit space, vendors of every size, shape, type and flavor had their wares on display at the event that included everything from cameras to drones to high tech storage arrays.
As DCIG primarily focuses on data protection and data storage, I spent most of my time in the lower level of the south hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center catching up with the storage vendors who had exhibits. Some of the more interesting technologies on display included:

  • AMP Inc. (Accelerated Memory Production, Inc.) was promoting 4, 8 and even 16 TB SSD drives that would be available in 2.5” form factors in June. While I was looking at AMP Inc’s literature, another individual came up and engaged the AMP sales folks at the booth and expressed how much he was looking forward to the availability of these high capacity SSDs. Apparently, he is a camera man and needs SSDs with sufficient capacity to store all of the video he is recording in a single day without stopping. These new SSDs would apparently address his capacity concerns.

In my ensuing conversation that I had with Dan Stirling, AMP’s Director of Product Development and who was at the booth, he explained that AMP’s SSDs are primarily intended for industrial use applications. One use case is for the military where SSDs are deployed into environments that have large amounts of vibration and/or need to be removed and inserted frequently. These use cases and high capacity might also explain why no one at the AMP booth was willing to provide a quote on what these individual cartridges cost though, offhand, I guess $1000/TB is probably a good starting point for anyone looking at any of its SSDs.

  • The FlacheStreams FlacheSAN2 storage array at EchoStreams booth caught my attention if for no other reason than it had 48 2.5” SATA flash drives in a 2Us of rack space. If I read its specs correctly, the FlacheSAN2 in this configuration can sustain up to 250Gb/sec throughput and support up to 2 million IOPS.

Yet what more particularly caught my attention was that the vast majority of vendors who were exhibiting at NAB and with whom I spoke basically came right out and said that unless you have 1PB or more of data currently under management, they were not sure they had a product that would meet your needs. Granted, this was the NAB show and many organizations in the media and entertainment market need large amounts of storage capacity. But I do not recall vendors ever previously drawing such a clear line in the sand saying that in order to talk with them and for them to be of value to you, you really need to a petabyte of data under management or be well on your way to doing so.
Yet when I compare what these vendors are saying to what DCIG is finding in its own results from its various storage Buyer’s Guides, a petabyte of data is not even all that impressive anymore. In reviewing the results of the recently published DCIG 2015-16 Enterprise Midrange Array Buyer’s Guide, 33 of the 50+ models evaluated scaled to more than 2 PBs suggesting to me that the dividing line between large and midsize enterprise is already 2PBs, not the 1PB threshold that these vendors are using.
The NAB show is an event unlike almost any other in that you get a worm’s eye view of many of the technologies that are used in the production of the movies and TV shows that we all routinely watch. However the NAB show also provides a glimpse of where storage technology is going in the not too distant future as media and entertainment tend to push storage technologies in ways and directions that businesses typically do not. In that vein, it is clear that petabytes have officially replaced terabytes as the new benchmarks by which data is measured and that flash drives will become ever more prevalent with larger capacities sooner rather than later.

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