Storageless shan’t be thy name

Storageless??? What kind of a tech jargon is that???

This latest jargon irked me. Storage vendor NetApp® (through its acquisition of Spot) and Hammerspace, a metadata-driven storage agnostic orchestration technology company, have begun touting the “storageless” tech jargon in hope that it will become an industry buzzword. Once again, the hype cycle jargon junkies are hard at work.

Clear, empty storage containers

Clear, nondescript storage containers

It is obvious that the storageless jargon wants to ride on the hype of serverless computing, an abstraction method of computing resources where the allocation and the consumption of resources are defined by pieces of programmatic code of the running application. The “calling” of the underlying resources are based on the application’s code, and thus, rendering the computing resources invisible, insignificant and not sexy.

My stand

Among the 3 main infrastructure technology – compute, network, storage, storage technology is a bit of a science and a bit of dark magic. It is complex and that is what makes storage technology so beautiful. The constant innovation and technology advancement continue to make storage as a data services platform relentlessly interesting.

Cloud, Kubernetes and many data-as-a-service platforms require strong persistent storage. As defined by NIST Definition of Cloud Computing, the 4 of the 5 tenets – on-demand self-service, resource pooling, rapid elasticity, measured servicedemand storage to be abstracted. Therefore, I am all for abstraction of storage resources from the data services platform.

But the storageless jargon is doing a great disservice. It is not helping. It does not lend its weight glorifying the innovations of storage. In fact, IMHO, it felt like a weighted anchor sinking storage into the deepest depth, invisible, insignificant and not sexy. I am here dutifully to promote and evangelize storage innovations, and I am duly unimpressed with such a jargon.

Infrastructure as Code

Welcome to the world of DevOps! The Instructure has been abstracted as codes. Both Hammerspace and NetApp® are jostling for the attention in the world of DevOps. Many others are following suit, but did not/have not latch on to the storageless jargon.

Respectively, Hammerspace Global File System and Spot Storage NetApp®, abstract the data services at the infrastructure level and present a programmatic interface for applications to craft and consume. Their high-level storageless architecture landscapes are shown below:

Hammerspace “Storageless” architecture landscape

NetApp “Storageless” architecture landscape with Spot

Why not composable storage? 

I find similarities of “storageless” to composable storage. SNIA®, through its Compute, Memory Storage Initiative (CMSI), has been driving the awareness and the adoption of composable infrastructure. Looking deeper, the granularity of composable storage resources as defined in CMSI to an application is much more refined and much more relevant to the required consumption. A high level overview of SNIA® Composable Infrastructure is shown below:

SNIA Composable Infrastructure overview

Computing resources such as GPUs, a sliver of disaggregated RAM, storage interconnect resources such as Gen-Z, CXL, and more seem more complete than defining storageless functions*.

* I am still doing deeper investigation of how granular storage resources can be defined, exposed and advertised to the applications in a storageless world. Looking forward to more engagements with vendors in the future.

Further commoditization equals less innovation?

Good marketing influences thoughts and perceptions. And perceptions lead to presumptions and assumptions, and may lead the beauty of storage technologies down an ugly, forgotten road. This commoditization could create a bland, uninteresting technology destined to little innovation. A name like storageless storage de-emphasizes the technologies of storage development and innovation.

SNIA®’s marketing efforts and commitment still preserve the essence and the DNA of storage in my views. Unlike SNIA®, a storageless hype could present storage as a faceless technology, demoted to the annals of IT. Much like Richmond Avenal behind the Red Door. (if you have watched the sitcom IT Crowd, you would know what I am talking about)

Conclusion?

What shall the answer to the “Storageless” moniker? Borrowing from one of the replies in the storage community which I run, “The Answer shall remain Answerless.”

An answerless answer irks you, doesn’t it? Storageless sounds paradoxically oxymoronic.

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About cfheoh

I am a technology blogger with 25+ years of IT experience. I write heavily on technologies related to storage networking and data management because that is my area of interest and expertise. I introduce technologies with the objectives to get readers to *know the facts*, and use that knowledge to cut through the marketing hypes, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and other fancy stuff. Only then, there will be progress. I am involved in SNIA (Storage Networking Industry Association) and as of October 2013, I have been appointed as SNIA South Asia & SNIA Malaysia non-voting representation to SNIA Technical Council. I currently run a small system integration and consulting company focusing on storage and cloud solutions, with occasional consulting work on high performance computing (HPC).

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