For the most part, the storage industry has been pretty boring for the past decade. Sure, there have been protocol improvements and capacities have grown wildly. Vendors have come and gone, and new components like SSDs made a splash here and there. From a topology standpoint, though, things have remained mostly status quo--lots of servers pointed to lots of storage devices that are either file or block. Yes, object storage has started to hit the scene, but the solutions that are available to date are really just an alternative "replace this metal box with this other metal box".
In my previous article about flash virtualization, I touched on a few vendors that are taking a new, unique approach to decouple hardware from software. While the concept is not all that new (think Falconstor or Datacore), wide adoption has been limited so far, as interoperability and true heterogeneous integration have always been a concern.
Of course, customers want to free themselves from vendor lock-in, but the reality is that the tier 1 vendors still dominate the ENTERPRISE market. Just look at market share: EMC owns nearly 50 percent of the enterprise NAS market and Netapp sits in second place around the 30 percent range.
Note the emphasis on the word "enterprise", though. The reason for this emphasis is to clarify that these same vendors have not necessarily fared well in the cloud datacenter environment. It is common knowledge that the Facebooks, Googles, and Amazons of the world have scaled their datacenters by implementing farms of storage servers managed by their own software. Sure, each of the vendors then developed their own version of a cloud-in-a-can to allow enterprises to get a close approximation of this architecture, but the vendor lock-in is still an issue with these solutions. Not to mention, the topology of these solutions are still in the legacy frame of mind of many servers pointed to many storage arrays, as illustrated here.
The market is about to see a major shift in this mindset, though, as several new solutions around software-defined storage are hitting the market. The big difference now is that it is not just a few new venture backed start-ups here and there. This time, the big boys are getting in the game, with the most notable entrant being VMware with the upcoming release of VSAN.