Storage Solution Predictions for 2023

Last year our team had some fun with a Top 10 list of Predictions and we actually did pretty well. So for this year we wanted to push ourselves a little, with more wide ranging prognostications. The common thread, though, are still topics relevant to those of us delivering tech offerings across a global market, subject to all the economic, technological and political vagaries entailed therein. Here’s what our crystal ball tells us for 2023…

  1. Azure tops AWS – Microsoft continues to drive their software installed base to Azure. SQL Server 2022 is the latest to be updated but not at parity with fuller-featured Azure-based alternatives. This deprecation process has been underway with Office, Skype, SharePoint, Exchange, etc. Microsoft Cloud revenues should already be passing $100B which would seem to top AWS. Then add another maybe $60B worth of annualized installed base software ‘lifting & shifting’ to SaaS, and we should see a pronounced crossover sooner than expected.
  2. AWS acknowledged as the Fidelity of IT infrastructure – Fidelity investments didn’t invent the Mutual fund (MFS did in 1924), but despite starting more than 20 yrs later, Fidelity rocketed to the top of that business by proliferating a broad family of actively managed funds, some led by the investment superstars of their day, growing to 40 mil. investors and $10T in assets. Similarly, AWS changed the infrastructure game, not just by delivering Cloud-based infra, but by a proliferation of offerings – over 200 total, including 60+ different EC2 instance types alone.  (The question now – who will surpass AWS as the Vanguard of infra? Who’s the next BlackRock?)
  3. War fears subside – US-China relations will warm, with attention on Taiwan waning, China Covid lockdowns ending, and Asian supply chains freeing up. All involved will get back to the business of business. Similarly in Europe, the Ukrainian conflict will move towards a negotiated peace or stalemate. As the continent proves it can survive with less Russian energy, life there will stabilize and impacted markets will regain equilibrium. 
  4. Chip war heats up – Despite a US pledge of billions for domestic chip capacity, the reality of new design and fab lead-times measured in years will keep the US dependent on non-US processors, which is a positive for global trade & relations, but a continued concern for those worried about US reliance on foreign semiconductors.
  5. AI innovation jolts a domestic industry – We’ve become familiar with Google maps, Alexa, Roombas, and the occasional glimpse of a self-driving (though still not yet driverless) vehicle. But we’re due for some new ‘killer app’ (and I’m not talking about kamikaze drones, I hope) finding its way into one or more major US industries. With supply chain and geo-political strains not yet completely behind us, the stage is set for a significant disruption to a large, legacy business, due to a game-changing intelligent automation in 2023.
  6. Workers return – Whether it was the social isolation, threats from the boss, or the tug of ‘cake day’, workers young and old return to their cube farms. Some productivity increased, but probably at the expense of innovation. However, Hybrid work becomes the norm, and companies continue a facilities evolution – hoteling cubes, storage cubies, more transient/social space (fewer dedicated offices) and heavy investment in related tech: cloud-based office apps, VDI, end-point security, related networking upgrades. Also adoption of latest video, telepresence and ‘metaverse’ tech to get the most out of meetings that will now often be a mix of local and remote attendees.
  7. Teams meta-disrupted – Microsoft Teams is getting a lot more use in a post-pandemic world, but it’s got the design appeal of a 1970s bathroom. Yet we know more usable tools are possible, such as Slack. There’s a pent-up supply of ‘metaverse’-enabling tech (AR, VR, gesture, voice, wearables…) – and those related vendors are itching to find valuable use cases. Either as a Teams add-on or replacement, there’s the opportunity for someone to create the ‘Apple watch’ of desktop video collaboration.
  8. IT mega deal – There have been a lot of ‘tuck-in’ acquisitions done by IT leaders over the past few years, but this current wave of recession fear and stock dips will be enough to make the numbers work for at least one enterprise IT mega deal in 2023. Look for a marriage of convenience between a couple companies who have not been able to evolve their biz models to be sufficiently cloud computing-centric.
  9. Edge app pwned – As more apps and data capacity move to ‘the edge’ (e.g. IoT devices, Point-of-Sale/Service systems, telco network locations) we can expect at least one significant hack in the coming year that will proliferate across a compromised edge and significantly impact a regional or maybe even global user base.
  10. Data mining becomes a resource biz – We’re heard the expression that “data is the new oil”, but we have yet to see the first “Standard Oil” of data. There are data mining and list companies out there like Sisense and Axiom.  But they are still relatively small, and there haven’t been any rapacious moves to roll-up competitors, vertically integrate, or any other aggressive actions to build a dominant, data monopoly. But given the growing value of data, esp. to train hungry ML apps, I’m expecting we’ll see an ambitious actor make a move in 2023.

Any comments – positive, negative or otherwise – are appreciated. Or let’s check back again this time next year to see how we did.

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All treats, no tricks for Microsoft workloads on HPE infrastructure

[note: this never got posted by HPE in time for Halloween, so here it is – the original blog – enjoy] It’s a spooky time of year. But even as little ghouls and goblins fill the streets, your data center has become a little less scary – and more under your control. Organizations have consolidated business applications on storage arrays for decades. But with new decisions regarding cloud computing, there’s worry that running multiple workloads on-premises has somehow gotten more difficult.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Companies can still realize the “treats” of running multiple business applications on shared storage – such as high levels of performance, economic savings, and technical familiarity – without really any new “tricks” to worry about.

In fact, our HPE Storage solutions for Microsoft team just published some new testing showing exactly this: That multiple Microsoft business workloads can be run together on the same infrastructure resources, while realizing high levels of consistent performance.  And, thanks to ongoing technology advances, realize simplified management, even higher levels of availability, automated problem detection, along with on-prem security and hands-on control.

Fang-tastic new applications from Microsoft

The software developers in Redmond continue to evolve and improve upon their leading business applications, which helps them maintain dominant market shares across so many of their products. We tested a few of them, in order to show how typical, popular applications perform together on the same infrastructure stack. But just as important is that a mix of workloads – with different performance profiles and requirements – can run side-by-side and still deliver high, consistent output.

In the new whitepaper, the solution engineers ran Windows Server 2022, Microsoft Exchange 2019, and the latest SQL Server with databases performing both Transactional as well as Analytical workloads.  Here’s a quick review of what’s new in these applications:

  • Microsoft Exchange 2019 – Still the newest version of this leading business email package, this version of Exchange introduced the Metacache Database which improved performance by leveraging flash storage for a cache that speeds access to frequently used data. There are also enhanced Security features, as well as specific improvements in Data Loss Prevention, archiving, retention, and eDiscovery.
  • Windows Server 2022 – This new operating system brings with it advances in multi-layer security, plus hybrid capabilities with Azure. Also notable are improvements in scalability being able to run up to 48 TB RAM, 64 sockets, and 2048 logical processors. And specific improvements in areas such as Hyper-V live migration help enhance overall system availability, usability, and economics.
  • SQL Server 2022 – The current version of SQL Server was still 2019 at the time of this testing, but it’s useful to note that a new version of this leading enterprise database is about to be released, SQL Server 2022.  The new release will be especially Azure cloud-enabled, supporting Azure analytics capabilities with on-prem data, as well as bi-directional HA/DR to Azure SQL. This, plus continued performance and security innovations and new as-a-service consumption models, will drive IT to continue to refresh their most important transactional and analytical data on-prem with SQL Server.

“Boo-tiful” performance on HPE infrastructure

The mixed application testing centered on consolidating a SQL Server OLTP (HammerDB TPROC-C) workload and a SQL Server OLAP (HammerDB TPROC-H) workload in the same dHCI solution and showing how they both could realize consistent performance as multiple workloads are added. These databases would represent a company’s transactional system, say an online shopping system running alongside analytical databases for research and reporting. So we tested not just two different database environments, but two that are used very differently, and that demand different resources from the infrastructure – one more IOPs intensive vs. the other being more throughput-intensive.

To this workload mix was added two Exchange VMs that represented a typical email environment for this same small to midsized enterprise, supporting hundreds of mailboxes with simulated usage patterns. The chart below plots these multiple workloads in use, showing how over time, the system is still able to accommodate the needs of all the applications without showing much in the way of spikes or changes in overall performance. Other charts and data in this same report show consistent, sub-millisecond latency measured at the host, over this same time frame, while a mix of different workloads are powered up.

Caption: Multiple applications run while performance remains relatively consistent

Ghouls just want to have fun

Another dimension of the study was to illustrate how disaggregated Hyper Converged infrastructure delivers superior performance, always on availability, and is simple to scale both storage and compute without any downtime.

HPE Nimble Storage dHCI was the platform used for the analysis, and is a converged infrastructure offering that combines HPE Nimble storage arrays with HPE ProLiant DL servers, along with set-up and management software.  This product has been shown to deliver latencies as low as 200 microseconds for applications and VMs, and it comes with a 6-nines data availability guarantee that covers both the applications and the VMs – not the storage alone.

The power behind this high system availability is HPE InfoSight – it’s an AI-enabled monitoring program with more than a decade’s worth of data from across the HPE Storage installed base, enabling it to identify and notify of anomalies and predicted failures within customers’ systems.  

The promise of “disaggregated hyperconverged infrastructure” is to provide the performance and flexibility of separate IT resources with the management convenience of hyperconverged infrastructure. Scaling and upgrading of either compute, storage, or both, is simple and efficient without downtime; resiliency is built in with hardware redundancy and the ability to tolerate three simultaneous drive failures. It’s been found that this approach provides operational flexibility beneficial for mission-critical data bases and data warehouses.

It takes teamwork to make the scream work

IT teams can confidently refresh their traditional infrastructure environments on-prem, and continue to run a diverse mix of business applications, expecting great, consistent performance across all their enterprise workloads.

Specifically, we’ve proven that a mix of virtualized Microsoft mixed workloads running on an HPE Nimble dHCI platform, can ensure fast, consistent performance across different types of business workloads, with measured low latency even as additional load is added.  The solution delivers operational simplicity thanks to tight integration across the layers of the infrastructure stack.  And with the intelligence of HPE InfoSight and its automated monitoring, the product comes with 99.9999% data availability guaranteed.

Got treats? This blog highlights the recent mixed Microsoft workload study. Get all the details of the extensive performance testing that shows how to realize consistent, high performance for your Microsoft business workloads, running together on HPE Storage and server infrastructure. The new technical whitepaper is available for download today.

Announcing the new HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub

In early 2016 Microsoft announced their Microsoft Azure Stack Hub, along with their new Windows Server 2016, as an extension of the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud. From the beginning, customers sought the benefits of Azure cloud, but deployed within their own datacenter. This new hybrid cloud solution brought them the hyperscale experience of consumption-based computing, along with the ability to run the very same applications you could run on Azure.

HPE Storage Extender for Microsoft Azure Stack Hub adds enterprise-class data capacity to Azure hybrid cloud.

This on-premises version of the cloud came with constraints, however. Not all of the same services in Azure are available in Azure Stack. It’s not ‘limitless’ as it is bounded by the capacity and compute contained within a particular customers’ Azure Stack deployment.  And that configuration itself is rigidly defined by Microsoft, and available only through a few certified partners, selling predefined bundles of servers, storage and networking.

Up until now, even if they didn’t need more compute or bandwidth, if a customer’s storage needs exceeded that of the configuration that they purchased, they would have to purchase another node (predefined set of compute/storage/networking) or an entire new Azure Stack offering. With Azure Stack, the promise of cloud agility came with strict boundaries. 

But that has all changed.

Expand Hybrid cloud capacity with the HPE Storage Extender

The new HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub solution leverages and delivers scripts and technical guidance on how to expand just the data storage capacity of your Azure Stack Hub environment. This optimized implementation is initially available on HPE Nimble Storage, and works in parallel with Microsoft’s published approach for expanding capacity for Azure Stack Hub by using any iSCSI storage resource.

HPE Nimble Storage brings intelligent, self-managing flash storage to your data center and hybrid cloud environments. It is an ideal platform for your expanded Azure Stack Hub, with high availability and Data Efficiency features, and guarantees both data availability of 99.9999%1 as well as the ability to store more data per terabyte of flash storage than other all-flash arrays. Designed for advanced storage technologies such as NVMe, HPE Nimble Storage delivers industry-leading capacity efficiency as well as a future-proof architecture. You can find guaranteed data-reduction program details in the Store More Guarantee documentation2.

Azure Stack Hub and Data storage

Azure Stack Hub scales between 4 and 16 hybrid nodes and 4 and 8 all-flash nodes. Although the Azure Stack Hub does not contain all of the features of Azure public cloud, it mimics the most common features, and provides an easy transition point for data and applications moving between the cloud and on-premises. The primary method of managing an Azure Stack Hub instance is through an almost identical management portal of the Azure public cloud.

Microsoft Azure Stack Hub currently provisions storage utilizing internal disk from hyperconverged nodes managed by Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). Up to this point, external storage has not been supported under the Microsoft Azure Stack Hub design options; the total capacity and performance available was capped by the maximum number of nodes in the scale unit, the disk drive configurations available from each OEM vendor, and the specific characteristics of the virtual machine type deployed.

The initial HPE Storage Extender is based on HPE Nimble storage but this solution aligns with the Microsoft approach that can support any iSCSI storage device

The tightly enforced configurations have been at odds with customers and partners requests for flexibility, and specifically for the ability to leverage external storage arrays to support key workloads. Along with additional data capacity, external storage arrays bring with them the ability to migrate and replicate data, along with higher data availability. This is why HPE developed a means to connect HPE Nimble Storage arrays as an external iSCSI storage option, in parallel with Microsoft’s technical template for how to connect to iSCSI storage with Azure Stack Hub3.

HPE brings innovation to Windows with the world’s most intelligent storage

The HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub solution provides the key elements to enable access to external data capacity, while maintaining a customer’s supported Azure Stack Hub configuration. The solution includes:

  • HPE Nimble Storage, officially Windows Server 2019 and 2016 certified
  • Windows Server 2016 Datacenter or Windows Server 2019 Datacenter (latest build recommended)
  • PowerShell DSC extension
  • Custom Script Extension
  • Solution Deployment Guide
  • HPE InfoSight

HPE InfoSight — the IT industry’s most established AI platform — is the key feature in enabling autonomous, self-managing data storage, and is an embedded part of HPE Nimble Storage, as well as other HPE Storage and Server products. HPE InfoSight has analyzed application patterns in 1,250 trillion data points over the last decade to predict and prevent disruptions across storage, servers, and virtual machines. This has resulted in savings of more than 1.5 million hours of lost productivity due to downtime. HPE InfoSight provides the intelligent foundation for all HPE storage products, creating the industry’s only end-to-end AI capability for self-managing storage.

Get started

The HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub solution is available today. It brings additional data capacity to Azure Stack Hub — without the cost of adding additional compute.

Thanks to HPE Nimble Storage, the HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub solution is an economical way to access and use more data within your Microsoft Hybrid cloud, while benefitting from improved data management, protection and availability. The solution includes technical guidance and scripts, and is supported by Microsoft as an approach aligned with Microsoft published technical templates.

Solution resources available at launch:

Launch webinar on the HPE Storage BrightTalk channel

Storage Extender solution brief

Learn more about HPE storage solutions for Microsoft @ hpe.com/storage/microsoft  

 

  1. “HPE Get 6-Nines Guarantee, HPE Nimble Storage” Published details available online.
  2. HPE Store More Guarantee for HPE Nimble Storage.
  3. Connect to iSCSI storage with Azure Stack Hub”, Oct 28, 2019