By Brent Compton, Director, Storage Solutions, Red Hat
The Open Stack industry coined the metaphor 'pets and cattle.' Legacy datacenters have pets – large, expensive proprietary appliances which are given friendly names, coddled by high-cost administrators and meant not to fail. Cloud datacenters have cattle – smaller, inexpensive commodity servers which inherit their purpose through software, are managed as a herd and are raised to be replaced.First to fall were high-cost proprietary RISC server pets running proprietary Unix. These big iron systems were deemed ‘too big to fail,’ and were named, coddled and fed large sums of maintenance fees to keep them from going down. In the last decade, we witnessed the systematic commercialization of this market by x86 servers running mission-critical Linux and hypervisor variants. Competition among the x86 server vendors brought a vast array of compute servers driving down costs and increas-ing choice. If there is any question that this battle has already been fought and won, look-up Unix vs. Linux server shipments by volume and revenue from your favorite analyst. Cattle have replaced pets for compute servers. Now falling are many of the high-cost proprietary SAN and NAS storage appliances. This disruption can be seen materializing in the public financial statements of storage vendors. Bellwether SAN vendor, EMC, reported its high-end storage business suffered a decline of (7%) for the quarter when compared to the same quarter last year, as reported in their Nov 2014 10-Q filing. NetApp, a mainstay NAS vendor, also reported lower revenues (1%) in their Nov 2014 10-Q filing for the first half of its fiscal year compared to the same period last year. Is this because the storage market as a whole is shrinking? Not so. We all know that the social-mobile-IoT juggernaut is filling our industry datacenters with mounds of unstructured data… petabytes from chatty machines, teenage selfies, toddler video clips, and endless on-line entertainment. No, the storage market is not shrinking. But it is indeed shifting from pets to cattle. In 2013, analyst firm IDC projected a 3.2% decline in scale-up file storage servers between 2012-2017, while scale-out file storage was forecasted to grow by 16% and scale-out object storage by 27%.