During the digital era, data is increasingly becoming the cornerstone asset for enterprises, experiencing exponential growth in volume. This surge in data has led to high costs for businesses using traditional storage technologies, prompting the emergence of a new approach to storage — cloud storage.
Cloud storage involves enterprises and individuals leasing third-party storage space at a certain cost for data storage. Through network technology or distributed file systems, cloud storage aggregates various types of storage devices within the network through application software, collaboratively providing data storage and business access functions. Core technologies of cloud storage encompass virtualization, distributed storage, Software-Defined Storage (SDS), and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) storage.
Traditional storage technologies evolved to meet the demands of enterprise data centers, databases, enterprise applications, and virtualization integration. They fulfilled traditional enterprise application requirements for reliability, performance, capacity, and business continuity. However, in the face of cloud computing and the big data era, scalability and concurrent processing performance have become somewhat limited.
Active suppliers globally offering traditional storage solutions include DELL-EMC, NetApp, HPE, Huawei, HDS, IBM, Fujitsu, and others.
The emergence of technologies like big data, cloud computing, and virtualization has made traditional IT architectures inadequate to meet enterprise data storage needs. Hence, SDS and HCI infrastructures have emerged and expanded from small and medium-sized enterprises to large corporations.
According to Fortune Business Insights, the global cloud storage market reached $702 billion in 2021. As the cost advantages of cloud storage solutions become more apparent, it will drive enterprises to further adopt cloud storage. The global cloud storage market is estimated to reach $834 billion in 2022, with an expected growth to $376.4 billion by 2029, at a compound annual growth rate of 24.0%.
Moving forward, Software-Defined Storage (SDS), distributed storage, and Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) will continue their upward trajectory, becoming pivotal for the future of cloud storage.
Firstly, the significant trend in SDS development revolves around the application of flash memory. SDS development relies on hardware advancements, wherein the rapid progress of generic hardware lays the foundation for SDS ascension. Utilizing and optimizing flash memory assists SDS products in handling large-scale workloads for enterprise users. To meet the digital demands of enterprise users with lower costs and superior performance, SDS solution providers enhance product performance through continuous technological advancements, leveraging innovative storage technologies like NVMe-oF and 3D XPoint.
Secondly, SDS will decouple storage system software and hardware. This allows generic hardware to replace proprietary hardware, reducing the threshold for storage system utilization. The rise of open-source frameworks accelerates the expansion of open SDS projects, with open-source initiatives like OpenStack and RedHat leading the way in open-source SDS development. In the control plane, applications like OpenSDS and OpenStack Cinder have matured. In the data plane, high-performance, highly reliable, and scalable open-source software like Ceph, GlusterFS, and Swift find extensive industry applications.
Faced with new storage demands like massive unstructured data, traditional storage systems exhibit drawbacks of low flexibility, inadequate scalability, and high costs. Users are gradually inclining toward open-source distributed storage.
Open-source SDS possesses several advantages:
1. Driven by the open-source community, developers and contributors strive for innovation, technological implementation, and building solution ecosystems, actively promoting the development of open-source SDS technology.
2. Enterprises can use enterprise-grade technology with higher quality, stability, and security compared to proprietary systems at lower costs.
3. Open-source SDS decouples storage systems from hardware, allowing users to freely deploy storage platforms and flexibly expand storage devices. Utilizing proprietary storage systems binds users to a single vendor, whereas the use of open-source software enables users to freely choose vendors, realizing the true potential of software-defined storage.
Distributed storage systems disperse data storage across multiple independent devices. Distributed network storage systems use a scalable system structure, utilizing multiple storage servers to share storage loads and location servers to locate storage information. It not only enhances system reliability, availability, and access efficiency but also facilitates scalability. Characteristics of distributed storage systems include:
1. Scalability: Distributed storage systems can scale to clusters of several thousand servers, with the overall system performance growing linearly.
2. Low cost: The automatic fault tolerance and load balancing features of distributed storage systems enable them to be constructed on low-cost servers. Additionally, linear scalability reduces server costs, enabling automatic operation and maintenance of distributed storage systems.
3. High performance: Both for individual servers and the entire distributed storage cluster, distributed storage systems require high performance.
Moreover, similar to how not all SDS is necessarily distributed, distributed storage systems are not always software-defined; they might be hardware-bound. For instance, IBM XIV storage, essentially a distributed storage, is delivered through dedicated hardware, thereby retaining hardware bindings and presenting high-cost issues.
Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI):
Hyper-convergence refers to the process of integrating storage, computing, and network connection resources into a single IT framework system, aiming to reduce data center complexity and enhance scalability. This infrastructure amalgamates many advantages of Software-Defined Storage (SDS) and distributed storage. It represents a novel deployment architecture in a virtualized environment by internalizing external storage arrays within servers, sparking an industry shift that profoundly influences the existing IT landscape. Embracing the “hyper-converged architecture” is envisioned as a rational mode for deploying fundamental systems. The hyper-converged architecture is more encompassing than the mere software-defined storage hierarchy, as it covers a wider spectrum and to some extent encapsulates software-defined storage.
However, hyper-convergence is still in a developmental phase. Despite rapid market expansion, the involvement of numerous vendors and the absence of standardized hyper-converged products pose challenges. Many products currently in the market are relatively new and necessitate continual iterations to enhance stability and sustainability.
The diverse needs of hyper-converged customers range from requiring substantial storage capacities to necessitating high-computing systems. Yet, existing hyper-converged products often remain too singular and fail to meet the needs of all customers. Moreover, integrating hyper-converged systems with traditional legacy devices poses challenges, with issues concerning the seamless integration of old and new systems remaining a critical concern.
The versatility of cloud storage has opened a new chapter in providing organizations with more efficient, scalable, and adaptable data management solutions. The continued evolution of cloud storage is not just a technological shift, it is a transformative force that is propelling organizations into a more agile and competitive future in a data-driven era.