The Evolution of the Data Storage Industry

By: Russ Qualls | @rwq104


We have seen the evolution of the data storage industry the past several years, and research shows this trend of evolution will continue to accelerate.

The data storage industry began in earnest after the invention and introduction of the floppy disk drive (FDD) at IBM by Alan Shugart in 1971. The race to produce smaller HDD form factors began – from 8-inch, to 5.23-inch, to 3.5-inch. When the first IBM Personal Computer was introduced in 1981, it was accompanied with a FDD. As computers grew in popularity, so did the demand for hard drives, and the data storage industry started to explode.

With fierce competition among data management companies in the 1990s – including EMC Corporation (now Dell EMC), IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, Amdahl, and Hewlett-Packard – this era of data storage could be characterized as “bigger capacity, but cheaper.” From introducing Nobel-prize winning technologies and the progression of interfaces based on the Small Computer System Interface (SCSI), this stage fueled today’s innovation of the storage industry.

In 2005, object storage (also known as object-based storage) was created, closely followed by solid-state drives in 2008. Fast forward to present day – the practice of DevOps (the combining of development and operations among IT professionals), cloud-based technology and flash storage have become game changers in the IT industry.

These changes continue to make the storage market more dynamic than ever before. With that being said, let’s take a deeper dive into the current industry trends and look to the future with some predictions.

Converged infrastructure is one of the fastest growing segments in enterprise infrastructure, due to its simplicity and speed. For those who might be unfamiliar with the term, converged infrastructure groups multiple IT components into a single, optimized computing package. Components might include servers, data storage devices, or networking equipment.

Converged infrastructure helps solve one of the most important issues that most organizations face with data storage: a shortage of IT skills. The implementation of a converged infrastructure system centralizes the management of IT resources, consolidates systems, increases resource-utilization rates, and lowers costs.

Not only is converged infrastructure viewed as a unifying data solution, it also enables hybrid cloud-computing services. In this hybrid cloud approach, seamless data management across cloud resources is critical. It allows IT organizations to complement a private cloud with a public cloud strategy – one that doesn't introduce new risk, complicate policies, or result in the loss of control of valuable business information.

Overall, with a shift from a silo-like workflow to a pool of virtualized servers, converged infrastructure can help IT teams refocus efforts so more time is spent on tasks that can help further business goals.


Flash storage is known for being part of the solid-state storage family, which means it stores data using electricity in surface-mounted chips on a printed circuit board. Most flash storage systems are composed of a memory chip and an access flash controller that allows for both compactness and reduced power consumption. Flash storage has been viewed as a crucial solution to address the energy drain caused by hard drives, and can be seen as a way to achieve green data center benchmarks.

Since flash storage has emerged as a viable alternative to spinning disks, its performance is driving its adoption for data management companies.

Even though flash storage remains more expensive than traditional disks, the demands of virtualized computing have created roadblocks when using spinning disk storage systems. For instance, some industry experts have a more difficult time controlling cloud and data storage and have cautioned the industry to use flash storage as a use-case-specific, rather than across the entire IT enterprise.

Despite the varying opinions, the industry understands the need for new storage options that are outside of traditional data management. As cloud systems evolve and offsite storage becomes easier to integrate with, the industry is expected to see a high percentage of all-flash controlling more of the enterprise network.

While many in the industry acknowledge that the evolution of the storage industry is shaking up its typical practices by introducing new storage forms and functions, we at TSP recognize that our business must be nimble in order to meet (and exceed) our clients’ storage needs.

Our team agrees that hardware has become more of a commodity and software is now its key component to data management. However, hardware will always be an integral part of the solution (although typically less important to the overall storage architecture).

Additionally, we predict that the storage industry will continue to move away from one-time storage uses, evolving to multi-purpose use. Now we see customers seeking different applications, and all-inclusive storage solutions. 

Regardless of the vast amounts of information and even differing viewpoints from industry experts, it is widely accepted that the storage industry must evolve in order to store the ever-expanding amount of data that consumers and businesses consume daily, meeting the needs of big data management.