This article originally appeared on Wired Magazine’s Innovation Insights. 

With the start of the new year, it’s time once again for those of us in enterprise storage to look ahead and offer our predictions for what the industry will see in 2014. So without further ado, here are ten trends that will have a big impact in the coming year:

1) Time to Retire the “Primary” from Primary Storage – With the continued growth of data and increased strategic value of connecting historical data with new data, primary storage is no longer the main game in town. Getting data off expensive primary storage, while keeping it readily accessible, will take on greater importance. As a result, there will be increased focus on tiered storage, with new technologies such as next generation object storage and LTFS being widely adopted.

2) VM Data: “Just Let Me Be Me” – Look for a greater emphasis on simplifying backup and archive for VMs, particularly keeping the data in its native format. With virtual environments continuing to proliferate, there will be even greater need for virtual deduplication appliances and backup software to protect data in native format as IT managers demand faster, easier restores and portability across private and public clouds.

3) MSPs and VARs Cloud the Picture – Expect more MSPs and VARs to add cloud Backup-as-a-Service and DR-as-a-Service to their lineup of offerings as a way to bring more value to their customers.  Major storage companies will play a key supporting role in providing the underlying technologies as part of a broader effort to compete with cloud leaders such as Amazon. 

4) I’m Not Getting “Nirvanixed” – Following the initial enthusiasm surrounding public cloud’s potential, it was perhaps inevitable that issues such as security and availability would attract more scrutiny, and the collapse of Nirvanix is giving some of those issues greater urgency. Companies will be more careful about weighing the cost savings benefits of public cloud backup against the slower recovery speeds, as well as concerns for their data’s security in multi-tenant clouds. Hybrid approaches that offer the best aspects of public and private clouds will have increasing appeal — particularly the benefits inherent in keeping a local copy on premise for quick recovery and assured availability.

5) The NSA is Right: It’s All about Metadata – While recent revelations about NSA spying are troubling from a privacy standpoint, the agency certainly isn’t alone in recognizing the increasing value of metadata. When it comes to storage, system metadata has long been important. This is the information about a data file/object that gets stored automatically such as author, size, date created, date modified, etc. In the next year, there will be growing demand to automate the collection of application metadata — information about a data file/object that relates to its content — connecting the data to its business value and usage.

6) The Need for Global (Data) Warming – As data volumes grow and organizations look for more ways to leverage the value of their data, keeping it warm in an active archive will be a top priority.  While cold storage still makes sense for compliance data and disaster recovery, business success will increasingly depend on the ability to quickly access, share and analyze data. This will also drive the continued convergence of backup and archive.

7) Storage: Marketing’s New BFF – Visual storytelling — Whether it’s in the form of conveying product messaging, showcasing sports highlights, illustrating new market trends, raising corporate awareness or encouraging social media sharing — will continue to grow and add value to corporate brands.  Traditionally taking the back seat to larger corporate-wide IT initiatives, smaller business departments are also now generating a tremendous amount of high-quality digital content.   Increased usage and archiving of video, graphics and others images will place new demands on storage infrastructures, and IT departments will need to rethink traditional approaches to managing and protecting data.

8) Data Migration is so “Old School” – Larger disk drives and PB-scale archives will force the need for an alternative to traditional data migration. Migrating content with traditional RAID storage every 3-5 years is already painful and waiting months or years to complete a migration is not an option for most users, to say nothing of the demands this places on IT staff to keep performance levels high. As a result, RAID will increasingly become ineffective and unmanageable, and next-generation object storage – with its self-healing and self-protecting architecture — will be adopted more broadly as a way to eliminate the need for migration.

9) Goodbye Nielsens, Hello Storage – As TV viewing continues to move online, broadcasters will increasingly be able to do their own analytics and get much more useful data. However, bringing this capability in-house will not only increase the amount of data that must be stored and protected but also require a new approach to managing data in many cases, including developing a more robust policy-based tiered archive system. At the same time, broadcasters will be looking for solutions that integrate analytics and storage.

10)    You’re Only as Good as Your Data Management – Capturing digital data has become easier than ever, and companies will increase their technology investments in maximizing the value of their data to drive competitive advantage and other business objectives. Digital video from a sports season, point-of-sale customer information, surveillance images or data collected for scientific research can reveal patterns that might not be fully realized until analyzed over a period of time.  Discovering such patterns can help improve performance, increase productivity, unveil an untapped revenue source, and even save lives.  The ability to not only retain large amounts of data but also manage and share it easily and effectively will become an even greater determinant of organizational success.

Whether you agree with these predictions or not, there’s no question that it’s going to be another interesting year in storage.  So what are you most excited about or dreading when it comes to 2014?

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