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Micron 2021 Predictions: Memory and Storage to Propel Innovation from Edge to Cloud

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

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

Memory and Storage to Propel Innovation from Edge to Cloud

By Raj Hazra, Micron Senior Vice President of Emerging Products & Corporate Strategy

The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. The fabric of our society in 2020 would have looked much different without cloud-derived digital services including online shopping, virtual meetings, and telehealth connections. The very research that delivered therapies and vaccines in record time was enabled by massive data crunching in the data center. These technologies became the foundation of our new normal, and all of the sudden, things like AI self-learning models look far more approachable. CIOs' risk tolerance has changed because they've had to deploy more nascent technology to keep their businesses afloat, and this will have a rippling effect across enterprises in the year ahead.

In 2021 and beyond, here at Micron, we expect exciting changes in the ever-changing world of technology, with memory and storage at the heart of these transformations. So without further ado, let's dive in:

  • Boundaries between memory and storage will blur: 2021 is going to see AI-as-a-service become mainstream, intelligence migrate to the edge, and 5G come to life. This is going to propel fundamental changes in the way server systems are architected. Memory will extend into multiple infrastructure pools-and will become a shared resource. And the lines between storage and memory will blur. You'll no longer think "DRAM for memory and NAND for storage." Instead, faster NAND will create the ability to use it as memory, and applications will grow in their sophistication to utilize resourcing in innovative ways. In 2021, we'll also see enterprises seeking new kinds of solutions such as storage-class memory and memory virtualization to further unlock the value of AI and exploding volumes of data.
  • In 2021, the prevalence of remote work-even post-pandemic-will continue accelerating capabilities in the cloud. Companies will look to create preparedness for a new normal whether it be more IT solutions for a flexible workforce, larger data stores to fuel continued growth of online commerce, or resilient IT systems to address any future health care crises. This will drive unprecedented demand for agile IT infrastructure, multi-cloud solutions and pervasive connectivity to power edge-to-cloud use cases. While we see great opportunity for memory and storage to fuel increasingly data-centric cloud services, we will also see a rise in data center operators evaluating disaggregated, composable systems to better scale for coming enterprise demands.
  • More pressure for an energy-efficient cloud: The move toward composable or software-defined infrastructure will be critical in reducing overprovisioned resources, and thus, mitigating the rising environmental impact of IT. Information and communication technology is already predicted to use 20% of the world's electricity by 2030. As companies look to incorporate sustainability into business strategy and reduce OpEx for compute-intensive workloads such as AI and high-performance computing, we'll see escalating demand for energy-efficient architectures.                                                                                                                
  • High-bandwidth solutions for high-compute at the edge are becoming a requirement. With the rise of connected vehicles, the amount of compute performance needed for cars is reaching data center levels; in advanced-driver assistance systems and autonomous driving, cars need hundreds of tera operations per second. This is some of the highest levels of performance in the industry today, rivaling what you will find in data centers. Given this, in 2021, we can expect to see embedded players increasingly turning to creative options for low-power, high-bandwidth memory and storage. For instance, requirements are exceeding capabilities of standard PC DRAM and low-power DRAM, and instead driving the need for capabilities of graphics memory like GDDR6 and or HBM. We'll see these increasingly adopted in cars which need fast, high-performance memory.
  • The autonomous factory won't be fully realized in 2021. You would expect that the COVID-19 pandemic would drive an acceleration of the move toward autonomous factories. While that trend is real, there's still a lot of opportunity ahead to fully realize the benefits of edge and industrial IoT (IIoT) implementations in the factory. Cybersecurity is a gap that must be closed in order to enable broad adoption of IIoT devices across factories and other critical industrial applications, while data analytics at the edge still needs to be optimized. In 2021, we'll see increasing focus on automation along with demand for end-to-end, edge-to-cloud platforms that can manage, connect and secure smart embedded devices, and enable smart insights.
  • The increase in AI means that its increasingly important that edge computing is near 5G base stations. So soon, in every base station, every tower might have compute and storage nodes in it. And there are lots of startups that are focused on building edge data centers that look like transport containers that sit in metro areas to enable content-like your Hulu videos-to be closer to the consumption. We'll see the adoption of these edge data centers in the next few years, as enterprises and consumers look to tap massive amounts of data for insight and faster services closer to the source.
  • In 2021, look for more usage of object stores, for storing structured and unstructured data, files, blocks, objects - all in one repository. AI's large data sets need proximity to where processing is happening. So, rather than viewing it as a large cold store, object stores are going to be able to do AI-type workloads, which means large sets of data can be accessed with high bandwidth and low latency. As a result of the rise of data-intensive AI workloads, we'll see the need for high-performance NVMe storage also increase, since this high-performing object store resides on flash-based storage, as opposed to the traditional, cold storage. This could lead to faster adoption of Gen4 NVMe SSDs to enable more powerful object store for AI.

While no one truly has a crystal ball into the future, it's clear that 2021 promises exciting advancements from edge to cloud across 5G, AI and IIoT, with these shifts fueling radical changes in memory and storage, and vice versa. Those that will thrive in this evolving digital landscape are those who can leverage next-generation memory and storage to propel innovation and redefine experiences from cloud to the intelligent edge to consumer devices.


About the Author

Raj Hazra 

Raj Hazra is senior vice president of emerging products and corporate strategy at Micron Technology. Prior to joining Micron, Raj served as the corporate vice president and general manager of the enterprise and government group at Intel, where he held multiple leadership roles in technical and business management. Before joining Intel in 1995, he was with the Lockheed Corporation based at NASA's Langley Research Center. Raj prides himself on building high-performing teams with a growth mindset and a culture of truth and transparency.

Raj earned a doctorate in computer and information sciences and a master's degree in computer science from William & Mary University. He earned his bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering from Jadavpur University, India, and holds 16 patents.

Published Thursday, January 28, 2021 7:53 AM by David Marshall
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