Tanya Loughlin

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Distributed File Systems and Object Storage: Shooting a Moving Target

Blog Post created by Tanya Loughlin Employee on Nov 16, 2016

READY, SET, AIM… and AIM AGAIN!


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Undeniably the object storage market has been evolving, maturing and transforming. A technology that used to be synonymous with a graveyard, the place data would go for its final rest, today, Object Storage is the most sought after target for transformative use cases such as cloud, analytics and content distribution. Yes, it is still the premier target for compliance and archive too. So sizing the market for a technology that is capable of truly bridging organizations from their traditional  (Mode 1 per Gartner’s definition or 2nd Platform per IDC’s definition) into the future IT (Mode 2 per Gartner’s definition or 3rd Platform per IDC’s definition) is a daunting challenge.  We believe Gartner’s new Magic Quadrant report was a good first step at rounding up the vendors that today offer both a distributed file system (DFS) and object storage (OBS). Where the report fell short was in providing a holistic and customer centric view of the market and how customers are really adopting these technologies, and more, to solve the unstructured data management challenges of both today and for the future.

 

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With over 1,700 Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) customers, a large number of repeat buyers (read: satisfied customers) and a footprint that continues to grow at a significant rate, we have the expertise and the pulse on how this market is evolving and transforming. The new Magic Quadrant for Distributed File Systems and Object Storage from Gartner talks about distributed file system and object storage as a singular market. However, the vendors in this report are rated based on their ability to address this market with both Distributed File and Object capabilities. This Magic Quadrant is looking at the market through a vendor and technology lens and not from the customer perspective. At HDS, we see the challenges around unstructured data management, both current and emerging, being served by a solution oriented and consultative approach which also takes into account customers’ digital transformation initiatives. This shouldn’t be about whether a vendor can check the box on having a singular or narrowly defined point technology, but instead having a compelling solution that delivers tangible business value and the ability to truly solve customers’ most pressing data management challenges for today, and the future. By framing the market from a technology centric view, it obscures the trends, consolidation and cannibalization that is really going on underneath the covers. But even more, it is not reflective of how we see customers solving their challenges.

 

Object Storage

Let’s break it down. The Object Storage market (which by the way, our Hitachi Content Platform product has been named as a leader in time and time again by both Gartner and IDC) is an area that has been vastly transforming over its existence from a technology purpose built to tackle archive and compliance to now a full grown cloud storage platform that has the prowess to rub elbows with the likes of Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Storage. As organizations are quickly becoming entrenched in digital transformation projects, we at HDS see Object Storage as the technology to bridge IT into the future and fuel our customers' digital transformation projects. Many times this means replacing traditional NAS with Object Storage, other times it means just enabling mobile access to where file data lives today and even continuing both in parallel. In fact, in IDC’s latest forecast they say “While the FOBS market will continue to grow overall, segments of the market such as scale-up storage will continue to decline and scale-out storage is forecast to grow. This trend is reflective of end users shifting from traditional storage technologies to those (such as object-based storage) that fit the needs of modern day requirements.”

 

Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) Solutions Fuel Digital Transformation Initiatives

Moving beyond Distributed File and Object Storage as technologies, HDS is helping customers TODAY to modernize data governance practices across the business, irrespective of the underlying technology; help customers create a transformative digitally enabled and empowered workforce with secure access to data when and where they need it; extend organizations IT resources and agility by leveraging public cloud services, all without compromising visibility or control; properly inventorying, tagging and storing data to facilitate search and analytics and to repurpose the data for greater value or new revenue opportunities to the business. We are proud to say that our Hitachi Content Platform is at the heart of all of these conversations.

 

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Additional Insights

With all of this in mind, here are some additional trends and insights:

  • While we agree that the DFS and OBS markets are consolidating in some areas, there are several nuances within the sub-segments that are important to consider. For example, according to IDC’s* latest forecast, the combined File- and Object-Based Storage market is growing at a 4.9% CAGR, however, Scale-out Object-based storage will experience a 8.7% CAGR 2015-2020. The point here is that some sub-segments are growing while others are declining. Unfortunately, Gartner’s new MQ doesn’t include any weighting on the two separate technologies, but expects each vendor to have both based on a specific set of criteria. As a result, more success with one product to address this space impacts an overall vendor’s score. Does this make sense? For example, is Porsche not a leader, because they don’t have a pickup truck?
  • Object storage leverages a distributed scale-out architecture, but without the complexities and overhead of a file system architecture. This coupled with its’ rich meta data, built-in automation, broad protocol, ISV and cloud interoperability, inherent compliance and synergy with analytics makes it a more well-rounded solution for unstructured data challenges. Object Storage is also becoming more performant and servicing more tier 1 workloads as a result. This continues to further feed into the consolidation of this space. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for Distributed File, in fact it is very well suited for dual compute-intensive and data-intensive nature of Hadoop and analytics workloads.
  • Object storage is cannibalizing many traditional uses of NAS. We have customers adopting our HCP portfolio TODAY for this very purpose, to modernize their file services.
    • Case and point, Enterprise File Synchronization and Share (EFSS) tools are cannibalizing many traditional uses of NAS in order to enable more efficient and productive file collaboration and sharing. EFSS is not even covered in this Gartner MQ, shouldn’t it be if we are talking about dealing with the challenges of unstructured data? Our HCP Anywhere EFSS solution is tightly integrated with our HCP object storage platform, allowing organizations with a secure and simple way to deliver this valuable productivity tool to their users; and without adding another infrastructure or cloud silo.
    • Cloud Storage Gateways (CSG), while they can be used to on-ramp NAS based application data into a cloud, they are also being used by a number of our customers to completely replace traditional file serving at remote and branch offices to eliminate storage management and data protection needs at the edge and by services providers who are delivering cloud based file services to their consumers. Again, shouldn’t these types of technologies be covered by this MQ as well?
  • Thank you Amazon S3 for making Object Storage the de facto standard as a cloud storage platform. Again, this MQ doesn’t even scratch the surface on the cloud use case for unstructured data. In addition to being used as a private cloud storage solution, HCP was the first to introduce hybrid cloud support (June 2014) and to this day, still supports the widest breadth of public cloud services for tiering data to the cloud. HCP now boasts over 80PB of hybrid cloud licensing, providing customers with a layer of data management, visibility and control between on premise storage and the public cloud.

 

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  • Our customers are in the midst of massive digital transformations that transcend any one of the use cases listed above. In order for them to achieve success we believe, rather than point technologies, a portfolio approach comprising of a tightly integrated object storage platform (Hitachi Content Platform - HCP), enterprise file sync and share tool (HCP Anywhere), a cloud storage gateway (Hitachi Data Ingestor) and data analytics (Hitachi Content Intelligence) is the best way forward to a more holistic, cost effective solution that delivers real business value.

 

HDS Experience and Expertise

Experience speaks volumes. With over 1,700 customers, across every geography and a wide range of verticals and spanning all use cases from archive to cloud storage, this isn’t just a whim, a reading of the tea leaves or a repurposing of a group of vendors’ rhetoric.  This is what we at HDS are experiencing in real life. So if Gartner wants to peg us as a Challenger because they took a technology centric view, then we will continue to do just that, “Challenge” the status quo.  Our commitment to challenging the status quo can be demonstrated in our recent announcement of Hitachi Content Intelligence, an extension to our portfolio.  With Content Intelligence organizations can connect to all of their organizational data, understand and enrich it to enhance its value to the business, transform it into relevant business information, and centralize that data onto our portfolio.

 

While the entire IT landscape is evolving at such an unprecedented rate, we take pride in keeping our eye on the only target that matters: continuing to solve our customers’ challenges in new and innovative ways and upping the ante on the value we can deliver to them.

 

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* IDC Market Forecast, Worldwide File- and Object-Based Storage Forecast, 2016–2020 #US41685816, September 2016.

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