There is seemingly endless discussion concerning cloud computing, inside and outside of the high-tech industry. If the barrage of advertisements for one or another type of cloud service is any indication, the Cloud has become mainstream service. But within the storage industry, it is still an important ongoing discussion; because storage is as critical to the future of cloud computing as it was to the initial development of and, later, explosive growth of the business and personal computer markets of the 1980s and 90s. Today, with vast numbers of virtualized servers and open-source software being deployed, the need for feature-rich and high-capacity storage systems has never been greater. Inside small and large data centers alike, the exponential growth of diversified cloud services and applications deployed is equally impressive and clearly profitable, allowing them to significantly mature into business models of their own over the past few years. IT professionals and data center architects have also embraced cloud solutions and technologies to address fixed or reduced budgets and the demand for new functionality, as well as to support growth with stability, information privacy and security, and data protection, and to enhance customer service and mobility. And there are no signs that any of these will let up anytime soon.
“With vast numbers of virtualized servers and open-source software, the need for feature-rich and high-capacity storage systems has never been greater”
Machines Are Talking to Each Other
What is especially exciting about these advances in cloud computing is that they provide the de facto foundation for another phenomenon the storage industry is observing, adapting to and discussing— namely the Internet of Things (IoT), or as some might suggest, the Internet of Everything, which is simply defined as a multitude of various products and services that are interacting with the individual and that are also connected to the Cloud. In practice, the IoT is essentially the emerging market of useful devices and services proliferating on the network, talking to each other, and generating massive amounts of machine-to-machine data that has to be stored, secured, analyzed, re-transmitted, tracked or somehow accounted for.
Of course, the most obvious of these connected devices are personal computers, mobile phones and tablets. Other examples of the IoT in motion include the devices and solutions that scan and track mail and packages. And when you shop online and click Buy, there are a number of machine-to-machine transactions that subsequently take place without the need for human interaction. Also think of surveillance cameras, for example, that can automatically transmit information about a traffic hazard to another system, which can then instantaneously advise drivers in the area to take an alternate route. Other connected transportation systems (rail, subway, air) within a city or region, even nationally, can also adjust and improve their efficiency accordingly, and benefit from an orderly system of instantaneously transmitted machine-to-machine transactions that helps the public move around smoothly. Similarly, smart city initiatives worldwide (i.e., smart bridges and smart buildings) also work within the IoT model. From sensors that monitor building access and security and fire detection, to sensors that monitor environmental conditions and energy consumption, to a variety of other network-connected monitoring applications, it becomes easy to see how the proliferation of things will continue, as will the need for smarter cloud systems and data centers, and more storage in support of all the resulting machine-to-machine data transactions.
IT Professionals Really Need Solutions and Tools
The modern cloud data center consists of thousands of components, involves dozens of variables impacting its efficiency, cost, performance and reliability, and requires new advanced analytics techniques. To meet this challenge, Seagate continues to develop storage products and solutions to help information technology professionals design, understand, maintain and use their data center infrastructures to better handle the exponential growth of all data, including the growth from machine-to-machine data transactions. Seagate is working on solutions that are based on a highly-scalable data collection system, which is combined with an automated analytics engine using state-of the-art big data techniques. Seagate is helping customers deal with some very large, frequently noisy and—often—unstructured data sets. Typically, these are problems with high dimensionality (lots of independent variables) that could not be addressed by such traditional techniques as linear regression or residual analysis. This is where machine learning techniques, such as support vector machines (SVM) or random forests, are most useful.
Seagate is also focused on providing tools for rapid prototyping, modeling and optimization of cloud data centers, with an emphasis on data storage solutions. Part of the work is helping customers better understand workloads and drive capabilities that allow cloud storage providers to make informed choices about what type of drives or combination of drives to use in their data centers.
Drive Technology Keeps Pace
Seagate continues to lead the storage industry in innovative drive technologies that increase reliability and performance, and deliver the highest possible capacities that enterprises and cloud builders demand. The company recently introduced shingled magnetic recording (SMR) on some of its drives. SMR achieves higher areal density by squeezing tracks closer together so that they overlap, allowing more data to be written without compromising data integrity. Seagate is also working on heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) technology and expects to introduce a 20TB drive by 2016. In addition, Seagate’s traditional near line and mission-critical HDDs are now just one part of a larger enterprise/cloud portfolio of drive options that includes SSHD, SSD and PCIe technologies.
More Everything Everywhere Means Quality Investment
In many respects, the IoT is not a surprising development or necessarily new. Much of the world has been relying for decades on computer systems and networks to improve communication, move goods and services, and monitor many other activities. What is surprising—and where Seagate fits in seamlessly— is the breathtaking increase in machine-to-machine data transactions that are coming not just from IoT technology deployed for transportation systems and smart city initiatives, but also from nearly every industry imaginable. Some estimates have machine-to-machine data transactions eventually making up 50 percent of all data transmitted over the Internet. And with total storage demands comfortably flirting in the exabyte range over the next 10 years, Seagate will make the commensurate R&D investment to thoughtfully support these challenges.