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2011 was quite a year for the storage industry. From the billion dollar acquisitions to the disruptive flooding in Thailand, it was a year to remember. As we look forward, here are 5 storage predictions for the new year.

1. Users continue to generate piles of unstructured data
Back in 2009, Gartner estimated that data growth would happen at a rate of 650% over the next 5 years with 80% of this growth coming from unstructured data. We can get lost in the weeds with facts and figures but most IT managers I’ve spoken with have all said the same thing: their users are storing more and deleting less. The cloud will play an important role in offering an easy to deploy tier for this growing primary data. Deduplication will also help curb some of this data growth as will the perpetual move of core applications to the “datacenter in the sky”. Ultimately, strategies involving multiple technologies will help IT relieve the pressure felt by skyrocketing data growth.

2. Consumerization of IT generates massive headaches for IT
The use of smartphones, tablets, and consumer cloud storage services will cause even bigger headaches for IT. Employees are using more technology and cloud services at home than ever before – and now they expect them to work on the corporate network. Not only does this introduce headaches in trying to support these rogue devices, but major security challenges as well. IT will spend much of this year trying to determine how best to handle this onslaught of personal devices and consumer cloud services.

3. Flash, flash and more flash
Flash production in the consumer market has been ramping up since the first iPhone rolled off the assembly line. However, over the past 18 months it has been gaining significant traction in the enterprise storage space, and for good reason. The SSD brings a unique component to the enterprise storage controller and with it IOPS that were previously unthinkable. Like the traditional hard disk drive and the cloud, SSD fills another piece of the puzzle toward creating the most effective enterprise storage controller. Costs will continue to fall, endurance/reliability will improve, and the proliferation of the SSD in the enterprise will spiral upward.

4. The cloud is used as a component inside the storage controller
Sending off data directly to a public or private cloud has never been a practical solution for primary storage. Issues with latency, eventual consistency and overall access speeds have held the cloud back from all but the smallest of backups. However, put the cloud inside the storage controller and you have something special. Functioning alongside traditional enterprise hard disk drives, the cloud brings unique functionality to the storage controller and makes storage as a service possible. The hassle of backups is rendered a non-issue, consistent, pain-free access to data across multiple locations is made possible and the ability to recover from a complete disaster in less than 15-minutes becomes a reality.

5. Cloud SLAs get serious
Cloud providers have been backing their services with service level agreements since the very beginning. But did they even matter? The actual numbers associated with downtime are astronomical. Let’s say 100 of your users lose access to their data for a mere 5 minutes – you’ve just lost an entire days worth of productivity. A few pennies from a service provider aren’t going to begin to make up for that loss. In order for the enterprise to take cloud services seriously (and sell the decision makers) the service level agreements will shed their meaningless penalties and grow some teeth.