Some days ago, Gartner, as whom you know I’m not fond of, published the new Magic Quadrant about midrange and high-end storage.

New leaders

The most interesting zone is the leaders’ one: which has slightly changed in the last quarters. In fact, HP, IBM and Dell are gaining positions (or reducing their gap) on who were once undisputed leaders!
These vendors have been taking big steps ahead in their product lines over the last two years, often acquiring very good startups. While, in the meantime, they are improving their vision and strategy, bringing out a better overall result.

Actually, the leaders remain NetApp and EMC but now the market is more leveled than in the past.

Infrastructure in general

When you talk about infrastructure (servers, networking, storage), specifically when the infrastructure is part of much bigger projects, the new leaders are in a good position when compared to the past. The fact that now they can propose a complete and competitive end-to-end solution (not perfect but surely a good one) has put them in the first row!
Customers are finding it more and more difficult to manage the equation: less budget+more projects+tight timelines. They look well upon “good enough” solutions that could help to shrink TCO, cut down the number of suppliers, and last but not least, give them a strong weapon to snatch up better commercial opportunities!
For example, this is why we have seen the birth of companies like VCE (not really this big success indeed, because companies like HP and Dell have more cards in their hands to play). 

The future of storage

Now that the storage game is heating up the vendors who will be able to stay ahead of the curve will come out on top.

Companies like EMC, NetApp and HDS are focusing on “storage centrality” and they are studying the possibility of bringing computational power near (sometimes into) the storage array (i.e. Seems that EMC is experimenting a way of using some VMAX CPUs to host few virtual machines).

Actually, there is a lot stiring on the Flash/SSD front: this “new” technology will be mainstream soon and none of the above mentioned vendors are ready!
We will see another round of acquisitions soon (during the next two years?) as well as a bunch of new who know how to use it at its full potential.

One of the most intriguing approaches could be to do the contrary of EMC: bring data close to the CPU! This strategy is very close to big servers vendors’ way of thinking (HP also has a new promising technology that could help a lot). This concept could capsize the way we see storage today: we can find examples of what I’m saying in companies like Nutanixin a recent acquisitions from Dell or in the fact that next generation storage systems architectures (examples here, here and here) are all based on scaled-out commodity servers with a lot of software (here there is a great vendors effort too)

Bottom line

In short, if you think that a lot is going on now, just wait for what is to come!
Ok, it’s sunday and I know I’ve used my imagination a little bit but all the thoughts I put on the table are plausible. 

It’s true that the storage market competition is moving up to an higher level and this is good for end users!
Next year will be the year of SSD (and of many new/revisited technologies to use them at their best) and big vendors aren’t ready yet… but they are sharpening their weapons!
Fabio is at the HP Discover Europe these days, I hope He will come back with some good news from the field!

Disclaimer: Some of the mentioned companies (in particular Dell, HP, HDS, NetApp) have collaboration/partnership/sponsorization relations with or the company I work for.