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Solid-state arrays: Gartner’s Magic Quadrant illuminates vibrant market

Amid tight competition, innovations such as artificial intelligence and predictive analytics are crucial.

Solid-state technology is both disruptive and inevitable. We can see it coming, and it is gradually overturning enterprise storage as we know it. Thanks to lightning-fast performance, solid-state arrays benefit all kinds of applications, particularly those that are I/O-intensive. As solid-state technology advances, costs decrease, capacity and reliability increase—and the eventual replacement of mechanical disk and tape looms ever more certain. 

As an IT leader, your challenge is to chart a transitional path that economically meets the performance needs of today’s applications while paving the way to a solid-state future. Sounds simple enough. But with a wide variety of choices to sort through, it’s a daunting task that calls for careful evaluation. It’s an instance in which the Gartner Magic Quadrant can shed some valuable light. 

The Magic Quadrant evaluates vendors along two vectors: 1) completeness of vision and 2) ability to execute. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays, July 2018, applies this analysis to a highly volatile market that was worth $6.3 billion in 2017, up 27 percent from 2016. As Gartner puts it, “The solid-state array (SSA) market remains very dynamic due to fast-changing storage array designs, features, large improvements in performance, highly competitive pricing, many new entrants, and some existing vendors which struggle to remain in this market.” 

Get the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for solid-state arrays here.

NVM Express (NVMe) technology is coming on strong, a development that favors both high performance and interoperability for PCI Express (PCIe)-based solid-state drives. Gartner predicts that by 2021, SSAs that use NVMe internally will make up 30 percent of market revenue, a jump from less than 1 percent in 2017. Also by 2021, Gartner says SSAs that use external NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-oF) connections to servers and SANs will represent less than 30 percent of revenue, up from less than 1 percent in 2018.

Gartner limits the segment to solid-state-only arrays that cannot be configured with hard disk drives. The market includes many different types of solid-state storage in the SSAs from 11 vendors, seven of which made it into the Magic Quadrant. They are, in alpha sort: 

  • Dell/EMC
  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  • Hitachi Vantara 
  • IBM
  • Kaminario
  • NetApp
  • Pure Storage

That’s still a lot of choices, from large, well-known enterprise players like HPE and IBM to storage-focused firms like Pure Storage and Kaminario. However, there are some competitive differentiators that could tip the scales for you. One area is software. Here, HPE has an interesting story to tell as it rolls out InfoSight predictive analytics software, originally available on its Nimble Storage products, to other offerings, including its 3PAR line. 

As HPE’s David Wang explains in this article, InfoSight’s use of artificial intelligence technology to apply predictive analytics to flash storage can significantly improve performance while keeping a lid on costs. Wang says many IT leaders simply add more flash when performance slows, even though storage is at fault less than half the time. Issues like configuration and interoperability are often the reason, but without the ability to analyze and isolate the causes, many will continue to throw more flash at their problems. In an age when IT operations are under pressure to achieve higher levels of cost-efficiency, that’s not helpful. 

As Wang points out, InfoSight’s ability to learn from and predict infrastructure performance leads directly to the ability to respond to issues automatically, before administrators are even aware of them. Such anticipation is key to the ultimate goal of many IT leaders: autonomous operations. Addressing issues by automated means cuts costs, improves performance, and frees administrators from reacting to problems, enabling them to focus on strategic tasks. It’s a compelling differentiator in a highly competitive market. 

Since the SSD market is growing, it’s a safe assumption there will be more investment, innovation, and a Darwinian level of competition. The Gartner Magic Quadrant is a good way to keep abreast of the vendors that are leading the way—and an excellent tool to help match their offerings to your needs. 

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.