2016 Predictions: OpEx Will Be at the Top of Every IT’s List for 2016

Originally published on VMblog.com

Despite our best efforts in predicting the direction of the storage industry each year there are always unforeseen events that catch us off guard. Long-gestating acquisitions are suddenly completed revealing bigger bricks still can’t float; companies come out of stealth mode; someone exits their funding rounds with an jaw dropping IPO valuation. And while any of these events can take us by surprise again in the upcoming year, 2016 should see more gradual, evolutionary progress rather than the dramatic one-time event to rock the industry.

The hype of the cloud will continue its transformation into a real-world business model with increased adoption of hybrid clouds in 2016. Performance and compliance concerns will necessitate that companies still keep a significant amount of storage capacity on-premises, but an ever-increasing amount of data will be moved to the cloud to alleviate capacity concerns and to leverage the cost-saving benefits of cloud economics.

Likewise, the widely hyped “all-flash” data center will reveal itself to instead be more of a “hybrid” data center with a greater split between flash and hard drives to balance the concerns of performance vs. capacity with the realities of IT budget allowances. Spinning drive purchases will shift to the slowest, largest drives for inactive and archive data, with flash as the preferred active data storage device.

2016 will be the year when companies address the elephant in the room. That storage OPEX costs 2-3x storage CAPEX and driving down hardware costs doesn’t lead to overall budget improvements. Companies have to actively manage storage in a different way to take advantage of CAPEX reduction without inadvertently driving up OPEX. They will look towards SDS solutions that lower OPEX through automation and orchestration, which enables those CAPEX efficiencies that makes finance happy. The Companies that can find these ways to control and lower these expenditures will be the winners.

Once again, the trend in 2016 will be to do more with less while extending hardware life. To ensure that CAPEX does not rise as organizations look to minimize OPEX, the use of commodity hardware with existing infrastructures in conjunction with SDS offerings will bring about the most bang for the buck. Data centers will no longer have to source all storage from single vendors because software that manages storage will unify all disparate systems.

In 2016, the approaching death of SAN and NAS will become apparent as the move to other storage architectures continue to be preferred. Centralized storage is under attack from distributed, converged, and hyper-converged models which will continue to grow at its expense.

Any or all of the above will be the catalyst for seismically shifting the storage industry from where it was to where it needs to go but there shouldn’t be any other earth-shattering events to disrupt the progress that has been made thus far.