FAST ’14: the big picture

by Robin Harris on Monday, 24 February, 2014

StorageMojo isn’t done reviewing papers, but this post is about the bigger picture that emerged from the papers and presentations. Perhaps this is pattern-finding gone mad – intuition – but hey! – perhaps not.

Here are the bones of trends observed from the research and conversations at FAST ’14.

  • Energy use is the coming measure of computational efficiency. This isn’t about green data centers, but using energy consumption as instrumentation to understand system level performance and efficiency. Starts with mobile devices, where the payoff is the greatest, but it is moving up to servers and larger systems.
  • Hybrid systems are gaining momentum – or put another way – storage is getting more colorful. System designers have been painting in black and white – DRAM and disk – and gray – cache – for decades. That’s what storage is “supposed” to look like. But the palette is getting more colorful, first with flash, and now with new technologies and concepts – such as advanced erasure codes – that mean more options for creative engineering.
  • Artisan computing – AKA enterprise legacy infrastructure – will come under much more economic pressure. We’ve only begun to tap the benefits of hyperscale computing and storage. The gap between enterprise and cloud costs and availability will continue to grow. Smart CIOs will retool their in-house staffs to deliver high-value custom services to compete.
  • How about a cloud service that runs legacy apps? Most don’t need high performance or much data. Lots of CFOs would sign off on that service.

    The StorageMojo take
    I’m told this was the largest FAST conference ever – over 500 attendees. What surprised me was the apparent paucity of hyperscale players from Facebook, Amazon, Google and Azure. They were there, but less visible than in the past.

    Which points to the democratization of advanced file and storage research – or perhaps a return to the old normal. These technologies are fundamental to a digital civilization – a transition we’ve just begun – and much remains to be done before we have the robust persistence we need.

    Courteous comments welcome, of course.

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