If you have been around the computer industry long enough, you have witnessed multiple major shifts in technology. If you were working in the 1970’s you remember the major shift from mainframe computing to workstations. In the 1980’s, we witnessed the shift from proprietary workstations to personal computers. Most recently, we saw the major shift from personal computing to the smart phone. In each example, the incumbent technology never disappeared, but its growth slowed considerably in favor of new technology that pulled the entire market in a complete new direction.
A similar technology shift took place in 1992 when NetApp, Inc. was founded. NetApp pioneered a new enterprise storage technology called Network Attached Storage (NAS). Compared to traditional direct attached storage (DAS) and storage area network (SAN) storage, NAS storage offered access to large amounts of storage in an easy to manage appliance. NAS was enabled by improved network technology and new high capacity disk drives. NetApp combined the new technology in such a way to revolutionize the enterprise storage market.
It has been 25 years since its introduction and NAS remains a highly viable enterprise storage solution. But, 25 years is a long time for any technology and NAS is beginning to show its age. Major changes are taking place in the computer market that are directly impacting NAS. The first is the exponential growth in unstructured data. In each era, data use changed dramatically. In the mainframe era, data belonged solely to the System Admin and it consisted of structured database information. In the Personal Computer era, control of data moved to the individual and unstructured files proliferated in the form of word documents, spreadsheets and graphics. Most recently in the current era of smart phones and Internet of Things (IoT), data growth has exploded in the form of multi-media files and device/machine data.
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