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VAST Data 2021 Predictions: Rethinking Cloud, AI, and Healthcare

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

Rethinking Cloud, AI, and Healthcare

By Renen Hallak, is Founder and CEO at VAST Data

It has been a turbulent year for companies and industries of all kinds as they've rapidly had to adapt to the new normal of COVID-19, from the way teams work together to how organizations engage with customers to advancing critical research in the fight against the virus.

At the heart of these efforts has been the increasingly growing value of data, and the amount of it. But datasets are only as good as the way you manage and scale them to drive innovation, whether that's for enhanced AI, or discoveries and breakthroughs in life sciences and healthcare.

Regardless, the ripple effects of COVID-19 and the general evolution of emerging technologies have taught entire industries valuable lessons that are sure to be implemented in 2021 and beyond.  

The Cloud Tax Triggers the Cloud Tea Party

Companies that began their cloud journeys four to five years ago are now refactoring their strategies. The multi-year agreements customers made have now begun to mature, and as organizations weigh their alternatives, 2021 will be a reconciliation against the tax that cloud vendors level against customers versus being able to build on-premise.

Many cloud vendors have held the line on pricing during periods of extreme HW cost reductions (example: Amazon S3) such that the initial economic calculus no longer works. In 2021, customers who operate at scale will make bold moves back on-prem as they have now realized that shifting costs between OPEX and CAPEX results in the same total spend.

And, while time is money and cloud provides agility, money is also money. When the comparable costs are 15x-30x more than what customers pay on-prem, the economics can't be ignored.

Legacy NAS is Dead for AI

With the introduction of PCIe Gen4, I/O rates have now completely broken away from CPU core evolutions. Legacy NFS providers are stuck with single-stream TCP that is rate-limited by the capability of a single CPU core on the application server. PCIe Gen4 will double the peak I/O performance of applications in 2021, while a CPU core will no longer be able to equally double single-core I/O performance.

There is no greater concentration of single-host IO than in the AI market - for applications such as machine learning and deep learning. To resolve this, customers will seek solutions that support multi-threading, RDMA, and the ability to bypass CPUs altogether - as is the case with NVIDIA's GPUDirect Storage. The demands to keep GPUs and AI Processors fed and efficient will dramatically outstrip the I/O capabilities of legacy TCP-based NAS, leading customers to walk away from legacy NAS altogether in 2021.

Standards Become Even More Important in 2021 for ML/AI

AI compute vendors will further push to homogenize standards across the market to make way for framework compatibility. In their quest to open up the TAM for accelerated computing, the need for standard programming environments and I/O stacks will only increase.

The explosion of ML/AI-tuned silicon will force the industry to adopt a standardized storage presentation to a common hardware environment. Storage-wise, while NAS has an appeal as NFS is also a standard, standard NFS optimizations in the kernel such as RDMA and multi-path will be table stakes to marry the performance needs with the push to standardize.

The Healthcare Industry Walks Away from the Hard Drive

Healthcare will be the first industry to go all-in on flash, moving away completely from traditional tiered storage. They learned a hard lesson this year as they raced for the researching, testing, manufacturing, vaccinating, deployment, and calculating answers that the world needed.

The problems with tiered storage show up most prominently at scale with analytics. These critical data sets now have a value that is proportionate to their size, which throws the value of storage tiering out the window. 2020 proved that our front-line systems could not deal with the latency of mechanical media, and low-cost flash price points are now compelling enough that organizations no longer need to choose between performance and budget.

A Modernized 2021 and Beyond

With the pandemic continuing into 2021, the next 12 months will again provide uncertainty for many organizations. But companies and entire industries continue to make the necessary investments in the modernization of their infrastructure and core technologies - much of which comes from lessons learned in 2020. As they do so, they will be more suited to not only handle any turbulent months ahead but will set themselves up to be innovators in their field for years to come.


About the Author

Renen Hallak

Renen Hallak
, is Founder and CEO at VAST Data. Prior to founding VAST, Renen led the architecture and development of an all flash array at XtremIO, from inception to over a billion dollars in revenue while acting as VP R&D and leading a team of over 200 engineers.

Published Thursday, January 07, 2021 7:28 AM by David Marshall
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