In our latest of the Altus Conversations Content Series, we cover key trends and insights in the IT and data storage space.  Rapid growth of data and cybersecurity for businesses has increased the need and adoption of storage solutions, especially with the advent of AI.  Altus Partner Craig Stevens interviewed Paul Speciale, CMO of Scality, to share his insights on key IT and data storage trends and issues for growth stage companies.

Altus Conversation Interview:

Craig: What are the most common storage challenges that you see smaller companies (<$20M) and mid-size companies ($20M – $150M) struggle with?
Paul: Smaller companies often struggle with a lack of skilled in-house IT resources, so they quickly move to the public cloud as a cure-all for these shortages. This can work well for initial and tactical projects but will eventually become much more expensive than managing key aspects of storage on-premises. As an example, cloud storage can be cost effective for small scale backups but will quickly become cost-prohibitive at larger scale.
For mid-sized organizations, the scale of their data storage needs becomes a dominant challenge. Be careful not to end up with too many “storage silos”, as this will be a driver of complexity and will increase the cost of IT ownership.
Finally, for both small and mid-sized organizations, they should prioritize cybersecurity planning and defenses, as the threat has now become so prominent that it has become a matter of “when not if” you will suffer a cyber-attack. This means proactive planning and testing of cyber-resilient data centers is now more critical than ever.

Craig: For companies that have hyperscalers managing all of their IT and storage requirements, are there any storage solutions or services that you have found are still needed or highly recommended to be owned by the company themselves, perhaps to complement what is already being performed by the hyperscaler?
Paul: As mentioned above, the promise of the large hyperscaler public clouds is very appealing: they are easy to start with and given their on-demand nature they are easy to grow into. We have seen cloud storage costs become a major concern for corporations, since there are many hidden costs associated with accessing data. For example, hyperscaler clouds will charge egress fees to access your data, which will be required for most workloads – and especially for restoring backups. We believe that the prudent path forward is a hybrid-strategy, where hyperscale clouds are used for peak or burst-workloads, where it is hard to plan for these resources within the company’s own datacenter.

Craig: What major trends do you see shaping the future of the storage industry over the next 5-10 years?
Paul: Clearly, the emergence of AI and especially Large Language Models (LLMs) will have a massive impact on corporations worldwide. From a data storage perspective, this undoubtedly means companies will need to retain more of their own structured and unstructured data as a source of institutional knowledge for their own AI driven use-cases. The ideal way to maintain this data for the long-term is in large-scale data lake repositories.
Next, we expect that today’s threat to cyber-security from malware and ransomware will increase. These incidents can be existential risks to the viability of a company, and it is now clear that even paying ransoms does not guarantee that the business can continue. We believe AI-fueled ransomware attacks are the next emerging threat over the next 5+ years.

Craig: How do you anticipate emerging technologies like AI, IoT, and edge computing will impact the storage market?
Paul: AI is clearly a massive driver for massive amounts of data for long-term retention as explained above.
The need for edge storage will also become a major requirement for corporations in nearly all industries. Just think of all the data generated in retail stores, healthcare clinics, sports/entertainment venues and much more. Now add in the IoT data generated on the edge from aircraft, shipping and from autonomous vehicles – we foresee billions of endpoints creating and consuming data. This will create a massive need for simple to manage edge storage devices that can be remotely managed by enterprise IT managers from a central site, with an additional need to mobilize data from edge-to-core as well as from publishing data to edge devices.

Craig: What role do you see cloud storage playing in the future, and how is it evolving?
Paul: Hyperscale clouds have done a tremendous service to the industry by making new models of storage mainstream – especially object storage with the rise of AWS S3, as well as Azure Blob and Google Cloud storage. In addition, many national and regional level cloud service providers have compelling value propositions.  This is especially prevalent in regions where data sovereignty is a concern such as in Europe.
Evolution of cloud storage is to integrate it more tightly with data management services, such as AI tools, applications and libraries. For most storage vendors, this means finding a way to add value to this cloud ecosystem as a hybrid-cloud ready solution.

Craig: How is the demand for hybrid and multi-cloud storage solutions changing the landscape?
Paul: Multi-cloud and has now been a reality for many years, there have been multiple studies published that show how the average enterprise corporation uses on the average 4 cloud services today (this is across IaaS, SaaS and PaaS offerings). There have been storage solutions on the market already that are multi-cloud capable, meaning they can provide a global namespace to access data across on-premises and multi-cloud storage from a single endpoint. The most capable of these solutions can even replicate and tier data from on-premises storage to public cloud storage.
Hybrid-cloud storage has gained popularity in specific workloads today, especially for hybrid-cloud backups (tier 1 & 2 backups on-premises, and tier3 long-term backups in the cloud). We also see small and mid-sized corporations using hybrid-cloud disaster recovery strategies, especially where they don’t already own a second physical data center.

Craig: How are the storage needs of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) different from those of large enterprises?
Paul: We used to say that the day of petabyte-scale storage had only arrived for large enterprises, but we now see this emerging even within medium sized corporations. This is driven by the need for longer-term data retention, as well as the growth of unstructured data, especially video and image data. Some very large companies are now starting to genuinely require storage at the next order of magnitude: exabyte scale, which was previously only the case for hyperscale clouds and some governmental agencies.

Craig: What specific industries are driving the most growth in storage demand, and why?
Paul: There really isn’t an industry where data growth isn’t happening.
Healthcare has clearly experienced a dramatic rise due to the increase in digital imaging formats (radiology, pathology and more), and the need to retain data for the long-term (even for patient lifetime in some cases).
Financial services drives massive storage consumption since regulatory compliance issues mandates very long-term (10-15+ years) data retention policies. This is also becoming the norm in government agencies, such as defense/intelligence, and in law-enforcement for surveillance data.

Craig: Can you discuss any recent advancements in software-defined storage and their significance?
Paul: Newer SDS advancements include:
● Ultra-secure, immutable storage for ransomware protection on standard disk media
● Ultra-high performance on high-density flash storage, to help SDS expand into even more workloads and use-cases.
● Exabyte-scale in a single pool of storage, which will help make massive scale AI data lakes a reality.

Craig: What are the most significant challenges currently facing the storage industry?
Paul: Three challenges come to mind:
1) Providing cyber-resilient and immutable storage solutions that help thwart the threats of ransomware.
2) Solutions that help corporations leverage new AI/ML technologies, especially in the areas of AI Data Lakes and analytics.
3) Simple to manage edge storage, at the scale of 1000s to 100s of thousands of endpoints.

Craig: How is your company addressing issues related to data security and compliance?
Paul: Scality offers ARTESCA, the leading immutable storage solution to protect backup data from ransomware attacks and actors. ARTESCA goes beyond immutability alone with end-to-end cyber-resiliency capabilities called CORE5. These capabilities protect against ALL types of attacks.  This includes those that target the human administrators, network level attacks, data exfiltration attacks, data center attacks or even attacks on the core infrastructure or architecture of the storage solution.

Craig: What upcoming products or solutions are you most excited about, and why?
Paul: The promise of AI Data Lakes to help companies use AI to monetize, find insights in their data holds massive potential. We believe that object storage solutions such as our own Scality RING are ideal for these types of use-cases.
Moreover, as stated earlier – as vendors and proponents of object storage, we see how its intrinsic immutability properties can help protect data from ransomware. We are extremely excited about the capabilities and potential of solutions such as our ARTESCA to make them the cyber-resiliency gold-standard to keep the “last line of defense” for corporations in terms of protecting data from cyber threats.

Craig:  Thanks, Paul, for your insights into the data storage trends and industry!  You can learn more about Paul’s company here: 

Craig Stevens
Craig Stevens
Altus Partner

Paul Speciale
Paul Speciale
CMO, Scality

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