As technologies such as mobility, analytics, and the Internet of Things continue to proliferate, the data that organisations must contend with is growing at an astonishing rate.

Inevitably, this is causing serious headaches for the executives tasked with storing it all this data and ensuring that it can be accessed precisely when it’s required and by whoever needs it.

Indeed, storage executives and their teams today find themselves coming under mounting business and operational pressures to reduce costs, increase agility, and mitigate risk.

These challenges manifest themselves in a number of ways, including the need to meet more stringent service-level objectives, increase performance for specific workloads, automate provisioning and migration tasks, and reduce storage-specific capital and operating costs.

While annual IT budgets are tied to overall business performance with corresponding fluctuations, storage infrastructure costs are taking up an increasingly larger component of overall IT funding.

That’s because the amount of data stored continues to increase while older, often obsolete data continues to be migrated to new infrastructure platforms. Despite new levels of storage efficiency, this brings about an industry average increase of 20—25 per cent in storage capacity per year.

Growing use of mobile devices

It is little wonder, then, that in our regular discussions with infrastructure professionals around the world, dealing with storage and data growth continues to be cited as the leading challenge they face.

Against this backdrop, the storage industry finds itself in the midst of change, with the growing use of mobile devices, cloud computing, analytics, and horizontally scalable, modern applications driving a shift in infrastructure spending.

This new approach to infrastructure spending favours lower-cost, scale-out infrastructure built on white-box hardware; the disaggregation of hardware and software to build out compute, storage, and networking resources; open, standards-based northbound and southbound infrastructure; and the use of flash memory to accelerate performance.

For data centre leaders, the challenge is in managing the existing environment today while also evolving it to support new deployment and procurement models. For IT suppliers, this presents an opportunity to help customers on their journey.

However, this journey cannot be a success without adequate planning, product development, and open collaboration and communication, thereby enabling organisations to leverage and protect their current infrastructure investments while also evolving, on their terms, in the future.

At the same time, a new range of innovations are helping storage teams address their cost and operational challenges by integrating best-of-breed technologies such as flash optimisation, data placement, and storage-efficiency techniques into their portfolios of modern storage solutions.

Indeed, in an attempt to address their major storage challenges, forward-thinking organisations are increasingly investing in flash optimisation, public and private cloud IaaS, scale-out storage infrastructure, converged infrastructure, modern storage management and workflow automation, and a range of protection, recovery, and availability approaches.

However, when storage leaders are considering investments aimed at addressing today’s operational challenges, they should do so with an eye to reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO).

This is because IT leaders are under pressure to reduce infrastructure costs, increase operational efficiency, and provide faster response to the business while evolving from traditional to new IT infrastructure models. And we already know that storage is accounting for an ever-growing share of their budgets.

Lower-cost approaches

It is with these imperatives in mind, therefore, that savvy storage executives continue to move virtualised infrastructure, new applications, and/or capacity-oriented workloads to lower-cost storage approaches.

The challenge for these storage professionals, however, is in managing both traditional SAN and NAS storage environments that exist today while evolving to server-based, workload-driven storage approaches in the future. And in moving to lower-cost approaches, performance, availability, and recovery objectives must not be compromised.

The other consideration is data. Data growth impacts both capex and opex, while also exacerbating the already-high operational costs associated with managing a non-standardised, highly complex, and disparate storage environment.

Regardless of the industry, IT leaders are facing seismic changes driven by factors such as the proliferation of mobile applications, the need to analyse and monetise large volumes of data, the prevalence of cloud computing, and the insatiable need for greater performance and lower cost.

Given the critical nature of storage to both the finances and operations of the modern organisation, the clock is ticking for those businesses that wish to change the economics of their enterprise storage and transition over to a new generation of agile IT infrastructure models.

— The columnist is group vice-president and regional managing director for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey at global ICT market intelligence and advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC). He can be contacted via Twitter @JyotiIDC. Content for this week’s feature leverages global, regional, and local research studies undertaken by IDC.