Review the Top 3 Data Storage Industry Trends of 2021

As storage options proliferated, so did ransomware threats. Revisit the leading data storage industry trends of 2021.

Karen D. Schwartz, Contributor

December 13, 2021

5 Min Read
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More data, in more locations, used by more people on more devices. These realities have forced organizations to reevaluate their approaches to storage. In 2021, that meant weighing cloud-focused storage options and taking data security much more seriously.

Here are the data storage industry trends that resonated with users.

When it comes to ease-of-use storage options, companies have an embarrassment of riches.

Instead of the typical on-premises storage setup, organizations can choose from three fast-growing options: software-defined storage (SDS), hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) or storage as a service (STaaS).

Software-Defined Storage: By virtualizing and separating storage resources from hardware, it’s easier to reallocate and scale storage capacity as needed. More organizations than ever now choose this approach: Gartner’s Strategic Roadmap for Storage predicts that 50% of global storage capacity will be deployed as SDS on-premises or in the public cloud by 2024, up from about 15% in 2020.

The adoption of SDS has a lot to do with huge growth in unstructured data, which is particularly expensive to store, said Dennis Hahn, senior analyst for data center storage at research firm Omdia. That makes SDS most appropriate for object storage, although it’s also used for block storage in some cases. It doesn’t hurt that the price of SDS has come down and that there are so many choices, Hahn added.

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: HCI is an offshoot of SDS that bundles storage with compute and networking in one virtualized system. HCI adoption has grown dramatically over the past few years, from something organizations would use for certain applications and workloads to one used throughout the environment. It’s also ideal for edge environments, which are growing rapidly. A survey from Evaluator Group found that more than 70% of companies were evaluating or planned to evaluate HCI, while the remaining 30% had already deployed it.

One reason for the HCI market’s growth is the maturity of the technology itself. Today, it’s possible to get HCI nodes with hundreds of terabytes of flash storage, four or more CPUs, and terabytes of memory. Another growth factor for this data storage industry trend: vendors providing lower-cost options with fewer blades.

STaaS: Storage as a service is giving both SDS and HCI a run for their money. While SDS and HCI are easy to use and scalable, STaaS really is an “easy button.” It enables organizations to store all data in the cloud in a pay-as-you-go model, with vendors handling configuration, installation, upgrades, maintenance and support. Customers can allocate and move resources as needed. STaaS adoption is expected to grow by 42% between 2020 and 2022, according to Statista.

Kubernetes advanced the need for containerized storage.

Kubernetes is a major success story, with organizations adopting the extensible, open-source platform in droves. According to the Linux Foundation, 75% of enterprises use Kubernetes in the cloud or as a hybrid Kubernetes on-premises and public cloud combination. Vendors saw the need for containerized storage and spent the past year or two making it happen. NetApp’s Project Astra, Commvault’s HyperScale X series of appliances, Red Hat’s OpenShift Container Storage and Pure Storage’s acquisition of Portworx helped advance the cause.

These companies, along with others like StorageOS, and Ionir, are building container-native storage technology that is deliberately stateful instead of stateless. Containers were originally developed to be spun up and down when needed, but companies want to use them for stateful applications like databases, which requires capturing the entire state of the application -- not just the data, but the metadata and configuration, as well.

Storage and backups became more vulnerable than ever to malware.

There was a time, not too long ago, when businesses didn’t think twice about whether their data was safely stored. They just assumed it was. That’s clearly no longer the case.

Research from Continuity Software found that, on average, an enterprise storage device has 15 vulnerabilities, with three of them considered high or critical vulnerabilities. The five most common types of storage vulnerabilities are use of vulnerable protocols or protocols settings, unaddressed common vulnerabilities and exposures, access rights issues, insecure user management and authentication, and insufficient logging, Continuity Software said.

Even AWS cloud storage isn’t immune. Continuity Software found that AWS cloud storage is at high risk for ransomware due to identity and configuration errors.

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Backup is no more secure. Innovative hackers now find ways to infiltrate backups to change retention policies or insert a virus. When attempting to restore a backup, the IT staff may introduce the virus into its production environment. As a result, vendors have begun to add ransomware protection capabilities like detection/removal and sandboxes to their backup suites.

“We’ve seen the emergence and acceleration of solutions more akin to air-gapped vaulting, where the data is physically and/or logically separated from production and made immutable (impossible to change), along with services like sandboxing the data to determine if anything is threatening,” said Christophe Bertrand, a senior analyst at ESG Research. These tactics give companies a much better chance of recovery, Bertrand noted.


While the challenges of storing data have increased, so have storage options. Keeping on top of current data storage industry trends, while measuring your company’s tolerance for everything from speed of access to downtime, can make all the difference.

About the Author(s)

Karen D. Schwartz


Karen D. Schwartz is a technology and business writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has written on a broad range of technology topics for publications including CIO, InformationWeek, GCN, FCW, FedTech, BizTech, eWeek and Government Executive

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