What the heck is Storage Modernization?

We often hear the word “modernization” thrown around these days. The push is to get the end user to refresh their infrastructure, and the storage infrastructure market is rife with modernization word. Is your storage ripe for “modernization“?

Many possibilities to modernize storage

To modernize, it has to be relative to legacy storage hardware, and the operating environment that came with it. But if the so-called “legacy” still does the job, should you modernize?

Big Data is right

When the word “Big Data” came into prominence a while back, it stirred the IT industry into a frenzy. At one point, Apache Hadoop became the poster elephant (pun intended) for this exciting new segment. So many Vs came out, but I settled with 4 Vs as the framework of my IT conversations. The 4Vs we often hear are:

  • Volume
  • Velocity
  • Variety
  • Veracity

I am no expert in Big Data, having dabbled with vanilla Hadoop a little bit and loving a small, (now defunct) technology startup in Singapore called Qubida (Quick Big Data). The Hadoop experiment did not particularly well, and I gave it up because it was too complicated for me. Like I said, I wasn’t very good.

But the 4Vs helped define the changing tides of the data stored and used. Legacy storage technologies with limited scalability (volume) and performance (velocity)  were unable to deal with unstructured data (variety) very well. Information management (veracity) dealing with data of value became vital. The characteristics of data are changing and the “older” storage infrastructure are not able to keep up.

Big Data requires “modern” storage. New data requires “modern” storage.

Are cloud and containerization storage modernization?

I once heard a consultant advising a bunch of C-levels and directors about storage modernization in a webinar. He said “If you are not in the cloud or using containers, you are not modern“. Here we look at the term premises (not premise). If your data and applications are in the clouds and/or containerized, does that mean that you have “modernized” your storage infrastructure? Does that also mean that if the storage is on-premises, it is considered legacy?

This Dilbert™ comic is absolutely brilliant!

Demands of storage modernization

The hype and vapourware marketing machine in the storage technology industry (like many others) is very good to distract us to look at shiny things. We have been conditioned by those fancy tech jargons to chase the unsubstantiated, hoping that the glamour and glory will happen for us too.

To separate the wheat from the chaff, and looking beyond the shiny things inside the “modernization” wrapper, we should and must look at the fundamentals of our own business and operations. The deep requirements and demands of the business and the operations come first. Use the KPIs and the growth targets to dictate the data points related to the storage infrastructure and information management solution to invest in. As a storage practitioner, regardless of premises, I hold these data points steadfastly when I assist end users to develop their storage and data management integration and planning:

  • Availability
  • Protection
  • Performance
  • Accessibility
  • Recovery
  • Management
  • Security
  • Compliance

A.P.P.A.R.M.S.C. has been part of my utility belt for over 2 decades. Even though I have been called a storage dinosaur, I find that the application of these data points are just as enduring as they are in the clouds, in a managed on-premises Storage-as-a-Service offering, in the enterprise, or in a hybrid IT environment.

Lead not with technology

One of my pet peeves is my own perturbation of Malaysia’s MDEC plans to chase after shiny technology things of the moment, and often missing the self-glorified goals big time.

Malaysia planned to have 15,000 (or was it 20,000) data scientists by 2020. It was so hyped up that when Doug Cutting (co-creator of Hadoop) visited Malaysia in 2016, he was feted like a king. Malaysia was offering certifications and trainings in all forms everywhere to get to the lofty 15,000 certified data scientists self-glorification target. CADS and ADAX became household names in the local IT circle and beyond.

Sure, Malaysia’s plans were skewered by the Covid-19 pandemic, but if you do a Google® search with the word “how many data scientists in malaysia“, you will see the failings of Malaysia in chasing after the shiny technology of the moment.

Another example is Malaysia National AI Framework. If you visit Malaysia Artificial Intelligence Roadmap website, fronted by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), you will be greeted with an insecure website page on your browser. The website has an invalid SSL certificate, and this does not inspire a lot of confidence. It appears that we are, again chasing shiny technology things as part of our culture. The fundamentals of having HTTPS security is glaringly missing.

This brings back to storage modernization. The thoughts of investing in a technology solution should not be led by the shiny technology fancy-ware and boombastic glorification. I often find this mindset rife when end users ask one vendor to compare this storage technology with that other storage technology. Almost all the time, it is a psychological battle to see who is bigger or stronger in the war of replacing the older incumbent storage technology. It is a waste of time, and I often ignore these manufactured confrontations.

Fundamentals of process and people

People, Process and then Technology. To modernize storage, you have to work with people who understand the fundamentals. Not the technology, but what it takes for the culture of the organization to derive and thrive from the change. Without a strong acceptance of the people working on the storage modernization project, it would be difficult to fit into a growth plan that is sustainable (as in the MDEC projects I highlighted). The processes have to be changed and adapted to condition the people for this modernization change. Both, the people and the processes, are like hand in glove.

Therefore, in my opinion, storage modernization should not be focusing on the technology of the storage solution. Rather it should be focusing on the people and the processes modernization more than technology modernization to be successful and sustainable. Start the storage modernization conversation from the other side. The side where people and processes, matters.

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About cfheoh

I am a technology blogger with 30 years of IT experience. I write heavily on technologies related to storage networking and data management because those are my areas 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 between 2013-2015, I was SNIA South Asia & SNIA Malaysia non-voting representation to SNIA Technical Council. I currently employed at iXsystems as their General Manager for Asia Pacific Japan.

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