2021 Predictions: Cloud computing, edge & enterprise storage trends to support digital transformation efforts

by Davide Villa, Business Development Director, EMEAI at Western Digital

2020 was an unpredictable year and has without doubt played a major role in shaping the priorities of businesses in 2021. With the recent surge in remote working looking to be an ongoing change, the proliferation of data has increased and forced businesses to consider their storage needs.

With research suggesting that digital transformation accelerated by 7 years in 2020, companies need to ensure these data-hungry, emerging technologies are supported with the necessary data storage infrastructure.

From security to gaming, industry developments will continue to have a big impact of storage needs in 2021.

Smart video adoption and complexity to increase cloud and data storage at the edge

Smart video is increasingly being adopted by enterprises and public agencies alike. As the technology evolves, so too must the storage that supports it. The days of a small collection of cameras reporting into one feed during working hours is fast becoming a thing of the past. Camera suites for the modern enterprise are often operating 24/7 and the smart video process increasingly support artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, thermal imaging and deep learning algorithms.

Naturally, the enhanced capability that smart video brings with 4K imagery, remote monitoring and data analysis creates more data and ultimately, needs better storage. As more businesses, educational institutions and government facilities make use of smart video in the coming year and beyond, the need for reliable, high performance, storage will grow. Today businesses can store up to 18 terabytes of high-quality footage on one HDD, which can support up to 64 cameras per drive with AI technology that provides an additional 32 streams for deep learning analytics within the system.

Smart video data in the cloud

While many companies still currently process smart video data in the cloud, 2021 will see organisations look to edge storage. It’s very difficult for cameras to process 4K surveillance video recorded 24/7 if it has to go back to a centralised data centre hundreds of miles away. Latency and bandwidth will become a problem.

This data analysis needs to happen quickly in order to be timely and applicable to dynamic situations, such as public safety. By storing relevant data at the edge, AI inferencing can happen faster. 

The rise of egaming, cloud, eSports and the need for localised data centre storage

2020 saw the majority of people spend more time indoors. With less commuting and fewer opportunities to socialise, it’s not surprising that many turned to gaming to pass the time. Online gaming numbers on both consoles and PC were already testing networks but now, taken to another level – eSports has led to a much greater transmission of data.

Last year, eSports competitions took centre stage. These livestream video competitions see gamers compete against one another for prize money, which means that ensuring a level playing field is vital. Delivering the best experience for competitors and viewers requires high bandwidth and high capacity, reliable storage to cope with gaming in 4K and 8K, HDR, augmented and virtual reality.

To successfully store this data and prevent latency, online gaming companies will be investing in high-quality HDD and SSD storage solutions to support their operations in 2021. The once humble personal hobby of gaming, has now been taken to an enterprise level.

Hyper-scalers are growing demand for NVMe™

Fast growing, data-hungry hyper-scalers seem to be ever-expanding their reach and their capabilities. With all of their services being heavily data led, the sheer volume of data that has to be processed, analysed and stored by hyper-scalers globally is considerable. And in 2020, with people becoming even more dependent on online activity, that volume has only continued to grow.

As a result of this, Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) storage, which connects directly to the CPU, will become increasingly popular. The legacy Serial ATAs (SATA) were not designed for high-speed storage media in the same way as its low-latency, high performance counterpart. In 2021, hyper-scalers will be continuing to transition to NVMe to cope with fast data demands.

Data, cloud and Zoned storage for the zettabyte age

The proliferation of data is accelerating rapidly. And with emerging technologies such as edge/ cloud computing – 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) relying heavily on the fast transfer of data, this trend is set to continue. As such, the storage industry is no longer talking in petabytes or terabytes; instead, it’s starting to focus on zettabytes (1bn TB).

To cope with the considerable levels of data being produced, new storage solutions are required to help efficiently manage and store that data in the cloud. In 2021 and beyond, we can expect enterprises to turn to zoned storage to help achieve this.

Zoned storage HDDs (SMR) and SSDs (ZNS) requires the host to co-operate in efficiently organising and placing the data into zones. With a unified software framework, data can be intelligently placed on both SMR HDDs and ZNS SSDs to increase storage capacity, lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and improve quality of service. This means data centre and cloud providers can more cost effectively scale storage for the zettabyte age. In 2021, zoned storage, including SMR HDDs and ZNS SSDs, is set to revolutionise storage and system architectures for next-generation heterogeneous computing systems.

The key for companies in 2021 is to support these investments in tech with the cloud computing and data storage solutions required for the fast transmission and secure storage of data. 

Davide Villa

Davide joined Western Digital as Business Development Director for Europe, Middle-East, Africa and India in 2018. His primary responsibility is to manage and grow the business for Internal HDD, SSD and Storage Platforms for personal, professional and enterprise use. With more than 20 years’ experience in the flash and storage market, Davide has spent time managing NAND Flash global business development teams, product marketing and overseeing Sales Teams in the storage space. His current role has seen him build on his deep understanding of the SSD, HDD and Storage Platforms market.