As Cisco Live 2018 approaches, it’s a good time to reflect on what’s happened in the scale-out storage market (and with the Cisco UCS & SwiftStack solution)over the past 12 months. To do so, it’s helpful to note some of the broader industry context: major business publications are covering how data intelligence is reshaping many industries, AI is a common topic at lunch tables and dinner parties, and the term, “the cloud”, has – quite accurately – been replaced by “multi cloud”. There’s never been a more exciting time to be an infrastructure provider whose role is storing, managing, and helping organizations maximize the use of data.

Here’s where we’ve seen the most innovation in the past year, with a prediction of even more advances in these areas leading into 2019:

1) Enterprises have learned that they, too, can build web-scale infrastructure. As the volume of unstructured data (video, audio, images, logs, IoT, etc.) grows, organizations are remaking their storage environments, phasing out legacy systems and standardizing on software-defined, scale-out storage. The reasons for the change are myriad, but usually center around flexibility, management, and advanced features such as cloud data portability (more on this ability later). The long-standing goal of operating data centers in a more “Google like” or “Facebook like” way is becoming a reality.

Cisco & SwiftStack worked with a publicly-traded Managed Service Provider this year to help them transition their unstructured data sets from multiple legacy storage silos to a centralized storage repository. The keys to this centralization effort are that the storage is accessible by both file protocols and object API’s, scales well into the petabytes of capacity, spans two data centers for redundancy, and is managed via a single dashboard. As new customer projects are considered, the MSP doesn’t have to worry about acquiring and managing new storage infrastructure. They simply expand the repository they’ve built with Cisco & SwiftStack to accommodate the project requirements.

2) Leveraging data for business value becomes mainstream. Storing and managing data in a cost-effective, efficient way is important. But, as the developments of this past year proved, the key is maximizing the value of that data, which involves context. A major advantage of SwiftStack’s storage engine is that each data item can have custom metadata descriptors, effectively bringing the data to life. A long file name now becomes a scene in a movie featuring two actors walking down a certain street or a clip of security video where the suspect first walked into the building. The concept of tagging isn’t new, but the ability for machines to add the tags vs. rows of humans with keyboards is.

One of the most highly-contested projects of this past year involved a Global Pharmaceutical firm that wanted to consolidate many islands of research data into a research data repository. The essence of this initiative was to make sure research data can be widely utilized, so research teams can benefit from each other’s work and R&D processes move faster. Cisco servers & SwiftStack software was selected by this Pharma primarily because of the solution’s data intelligence capabilities. Now, a piece of data can be easily accessed through the research data repository because it’s associated with a specific compound and/or scientist. The days of sifting through folders of files are over.

3) Multi-cloud features have moved from the wish list to the shopping list. According to IDC, 94% of organizations plan to use multiple clouds. There’s no such thing as “the cloud”. A multi-cloud approach is being propelled not so much by economics or efficiencies, but rather by access to innovation. Cloud strategies are now more about achieving competitive advantage than about saving money.

As this multi-cloud model takes hold, all infrastructure elements must be cloud-compatible, which impacts IT decisions. For SwiftStack-on-UCS, cloud enablement means making data portable between on-premises infrastructure and public cloud services. For example, a piece of data that is created through a long-used workflow can be run through AI software which resides in Google Cloud or Amazon Web Services, with the result loaded back into the SwiftStack-housed data item for future reference. And, with an orchestration tool like Cisco CloudCenter, this multi-cloud enabled workflow can function without any IT gymnastics.

We’ve seen rapid growth in multi-cloud use cases since last year’s Cisco Live. Here are a few common themes:

• Rather than purchasing, installing, managing, and upgrading a piece of software, enterprises are tapping into cloud-resident applications on an on-demand, pay-as-you-go basis. SwiftStack-on-UCS makes sure the data is accessible by the application to make this model feasible, even if the data is stored on-premises.

• When there are compute-intensive processes that are subject to large spikes, cloud compute services allow applications to burst beyond the levels of on-premises resources. Again, SwiftStack-on-UCS makes sure the data – no matter where it lives at rest – is accessible by the application processes which have been fired up in AWS EC2 or GCP.

• A more traditional – but still valuable – way of leveraging public cloud services is to archive data from SwiftStack-on-UCS into cloud storage based on policies, ie, time, type, size, etc. The crucial ingredient for making an archive process functional isn’t the archiving itself, but the retrieval of the data. This is where SwiftStack’s single namespace – across both private infrastructure and public clouds – comes into play. An application or user requests a piece of data and SwiftStack delivers it, regardless of its on-premises or cloud location.

Cisco & SwiftStack are seeing organizations across health care, media, financial services, transportation, online services, and manufacturing adopt a multi-cloud model to drive positive business outcomes.

Each of the three topics covered in this post – web-scale infrastructure, data intelligence, and multi-cloud – could consume an entire white paper. If you’d like to dig deeper and understand how to do more with data inside your organization, come see us at Cisco Live (booth: 823). Grab a chair and a bottle of water and we can discuss how the technology applies to your business and IT challenges, with a whiteboard at our disposal.

I look forward to seeing you in Orlando the week of June 11!

About Author

Greg Govatos

Greg Govatos

Greg Govatos is the VP of Strategic Partnerships for SwiftStack.