The Stagnant Calm Before the Storm of Invention

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There are two areas of storage that I believe are stagnant:

  1. Backups
  2. Performance

Now I am sure that there are many people who would argue that neither of these areas are stagnant. There are many different backup solutions available right now, and more and more products are emerging on the scene to provide ever increasing IOPs to ensure better and faster storage performance.

I cannot deny either of these truths. In fact, I point to them more as proof of our stagnation in both of these areas of storage technology. The reason why we have so many backup solutions is because no one has invented a truly great way to backup the ever increasing amount of data we have in our environments. The reason why more and more possible solutions are emerging for improving storage performance is because there is not an elegant way to solve the problem yet.

This is the proverbial calm before the storm. Those words are misleading though, because the calm before a storm is anything but calm. It is a period of building tension. It is the steady increase in pressure. The calm before the storm is the moment when a lot of activity is taking place, and it is only when all of that activity hits a tipping point that suddenly the storm emerges and the pressure is alleviated (albeit violently).

That pressure is building up right now, but instead of atmospheric conditions like precipitation and temperature we are seeing a steady rise in discontent with backups and storage performance. Tapeless solutions, cloud archiving, metadata driven backups, and other such technologies are still duking it out for backups supremacy. SSD drives, flash memory, and smart cache technologies are being bundled together to solve our storage performance issues.

None of these solutions have actually outright solved the problems that they were meant to though. Each can only alleviate a small bit of pressure for limited amount of time. Yet all of these solutions merely existing are signals to me that a better solution is on the way. These signs warn me that I better be ready to change quickly once the solution finally emerges.

Because someone, somewhere, is going to invent the solution. I do not know who. I do not know when. All I do know is that far too much money and effort has already been thrown towards solving these problems for newer and better technologies not to emerge. All of the major players in each field are involved, as well as new companies that no one has ever heard of.

We’ve seen this before with technology. The space race pushing our best and brightest minds to engineer solutions that just a decade before were considered to be science fiction. The numerous labs across the globe experimenting with technologies that would eventually lead to the invention of television. The ridiculous methods of LAN networking available to us before Ethernet finally emerged as the standard. Lots of competition and pressure, and then finally the tipping point was reached and with a single invention a storm is unleashed across our infrastructures as we replace all of those “so-so” solutions with the new standard that actually solves the problem.

As someone who must design for storage and backup needs I for one am hoping that lightning strikes soon!

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