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Winning with enterprise storage

Winning with enterprise storage

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Enterprise storage is a centralised repository for business information that provides common data management, protection and data sharing functions through connections to computer systems. Because enterprises deal with heavy workloads of business-critical information, enterprise storage systems should be scalable for workloads of hundreds of terabytes or even petabytes without relying on excessive cabling or the creation of subsystems. Industry pundits share insights on enterprise storage and how the industry has transitioned to cloud and multiple storage platforms.

As newer approaches and technologies in enterprise storage have trended upward over the last several years, it comes as no surprise that cloud storage, hyper-converged storage and flash technologies, such as non-volatile memory express (NVMe) are seeing a wide adoption by enterprises of all sizes in the Middle East.

Storage for containers is also becoming more important and enterprise storage based on composable and disaggregated infrastructure concepts is starting to make some noise. In addition, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning in the area of predicative analytics, as well as storage-class memory (SCM), should have a major impact on enterprise storage in the near future, if they haven’t started to already.

As a result, latest analyst firms predict that the storage market in the Middle East will witness growth ranging between 3 to 4% year-on-year (YoY) for the next three years.

According to research firm International Data Corporation’s (IDC) 2021 FutureScape report, by the end of 2021, 80% of enterprises will shift to cloud-centric infrastructure and applications twice as fast as before the pandemic.

Fadi Kanafani, Managing Director – Middle East, NetApp, said as more enterprise companies become data-driven, their data assets will grow exponentially especially with the deployed AI workloads, analytics, dev-ops, etc.

“As we navigate through and adapt to the new normal, CIOs ought to consider building their own data fabrics. This gives companies the ability to take full control of their data regardless where it resides – whether on prem or in the cloud or in an hybrid mode,” he said.

Kanafani said with the customer at the centre of all decisions, it becomes clear that companies need to be nimble and agile to stay in the business or ahead, considering that the current business conditions require faster and smarter decision making capabilities while adopting a virtual digital workplace to meet their customer needs.

Mahmoud El Kordy, Business Unit Executive, IBM Systems, Middle East and Pakistan, said in the new era we are living today, many organisations are having to transform traditional business models to deliver innovative digital experiences and offer their personalised services to their customers through digital channels that are trusted, secure and highly available.

As a result, noted El Kordy, the data storage market in the Middle East has been steadily growing, driven mainly by the uptake of advanced technologies such as AI and Big Data as part of the Digital Transformation journeys that organisations in the region have embarked on. “Data storage plays a key role in every transformation journey where the data has become the currency that fuels competitive advantage for every successful business,” he said. “Also, an increasing demand for smart phones and other devices underpinned by the Internet of Things (IoT) along with a massive growth in social media channels has also increased the demand for additional storage. This continues to drive the growth and demand for advanced data storage solutions in Middle East.”

Cloud storage

Given that enterprise cloud storage consists of storage capacity purchased from a public cloud service provider, enterprises often turn to cloud storage to reduce or eliminate excessive on-premises storage costs, reduce the complexity of managing storage and upgrade data centre infrastructure. The three major public cloud storage providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. Others include Alibaba Cloud, IBM’s Bluemix, Oracle and Rackspace, as well as a host of regional providers.

“We are seeing an increasing interest in cloud adoption as part of the accelerated Digital Transformation strategies of most enterprise companies,” said NetApp’s Kanafani. According to Kanafani, NetApp engagements with the major hyper-scalers is particularly important to support our customers in leveraging cloud storage resources to deliver the business outcomes they are seeking. “As a cloud led, data-centric, hybrid multi-cloud software organisation, NetApp is helping customers to make the right choices, balancing the different clouds, to create the optimal environment to manage their data securely and thrive,” he said.

Mouteih Chaghlil, CEO, Middle East and Africa (MEA), Bespin Global, said the main three features that favour adopting cloud as opposed to other storage forms, as well as ensuring that it is the future of enterprise storage focus on the technology’s unlimited capabilities which allows infinite customisation, the availability of pay-as-you-go models and the multi-tier security measures that could be applied. “Unlike the on-premises offerings, cloud storage provides users the ability to pick and choose the capacity they need from the cloud storage services, with no high CAPEX and great speed, availability, security and high performance,” he said.

Assaad El Saadi, Regional Director – Middle East, Pure Storage, said there is no doubt that cloud storage is the future of enterprise storage. “The user economy is gaining ground in all traditional IT infrastructure areas and the benefits are clear. You’re no longer purchasing anything; you’re consuming a service,” he noted. “Research shows that many CIOs feel consumption-based models significantly accelerate Digital Transformation due to the transparency and agility to repurpose capital to address business demand. To future-proof storage infrastructure, organisations will need flexible consumption of file, block and object storage for on-prem or the cloud. The premise is simple – if you pay only for what you need, you don’t have to worry about predicting the future to buy or lease storage years in advance.”

Server and network optimisation

With CIOs being urged to optimise their server and network infrastructure to maximise their enterprise storage deployments understanding how best to enhance their storage, compute and network resources is far critical now than in the past.

Kanafani pointed out that that with the support of On-Command Insight for the on-prem infrastructure or On-Cloud Insight for cloud- based operation, NetApp is showing CIOs how they can optimise their environment on the storage layer, compute and networking as well. “Intelligent executive dashboards are created to provide real-time insights that identify the inefficiencies of the infrastructure, potential areas of failure and bottlenecks,” he said. “Additionally, NetApp Spot, is capable of cost savings of up to 90% on the storage and compute resources that are being consumed in the cloud. I think this would be a welcome optimisation capability that they can employ fairly quickly.”

At IBM, El Kordy believes that there has been significant advancements in storage technologies over the last decade or so. “First, software defined storage (SDS) transformed the way storage used to be consumed and analytics-based insights into the storage area networks (SAN) and Storage infrastructures helped organisations drive the maximum value out of the underline hardware,” he explained. “Recent developments in storage technologies around NVMe and SCM are extremely valuable for data driven businesses as it does not only offer significantly higher performance and lower latencies for existing application, but also enables new capabilities for real time data processing in hybrid cloud environments.

Having said that, El Kordy pointed out that compute and network become equally critical to maximise the potential of enterprise storage deployments. “CIOs need to make sure that their compute and network architectures support these state-of-the-art communication protocols like NVMe and the fastest media which are storage class memory (SCM) drives,” he said.

Bespin Global’s Chaghlil said: “In today’s world, CIOs are given a broader remit than they had before and are currently playing a leading role in directing businesses’ technologies to ensure optimising data storage for their enterprise. That would entail implementing a hybrid cloud to simplify and secure existing back-up, investing in AI opportunities to increase IT functions and support hybrid storage, eliminating technical debt by implementing a culture of financially sustainable cost management and of course, implementing automation and AI/Machine Learning technologies to reduce expenses and complexity.”

Enterprise storage technologies

With the adoption of hybrid multi-cloud architectures for enterprise customers, organisations everywhere are under tremendous pressure to modernise their infrastructure and to deliver tangible business value around data intensive applications and workloads.

As a result, said Kanafani, enterprises are shifting from on-premises environments to using public cloud services, building private clouds and moving from disk to flash in their data centres. “These transformations open the door to huge potential, but they also introduce the challenge of increased IT complexity. Therefore demand for simplicity and customisability will be the most sought requirement for enterprise storage technologies in the year ahead,” he said.

Kanafani said add to that the skill shortage in the Middle East for data scientists and storage architects which has pushed CIOs to consider IT managed services with clear service level agreements (SLAs) to support the business outcomes. “NetApp for example has many offerings that take the burden away from customers so they can focus is on what matters most and leave the data management element of the equation with the vendor as a service either provided directly or through one of the established cloud service providers in the region,” he said.

Kingston Technology’s Harb said Middle East CIOs will see a major increase in investments enabling and accelerating Digital Transformation of businesses. “This is not only driven by the currently on-going lock downs around the globe, but also through the growing demand of employees to include part-time working from home into their working contracts,” he said.

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