Barry Mansfield looks at the factors driving the growth of next-generation data storage in Africa
Businesses operating at the cutting edge of the data storage market are constantly investing in research and development. For example, HP has produced an affordable flash drive that works at very high speed. Smartphones, wearable electronics, smart batteries, games, advertisements, movies, smart homes, smart city technology - all of these generate data, and they're not limited to Europe, North America and Asia, as Africans update their infrastructure for the 21st century. Once a concern for high tech hubs like Cape Town, storage is now a priority for African development.
This trend has brought upheaval to the IT industry, as technicians set their sights on a ‘next generation’ data storage technology that provides a safe place and enables fast recovery of information in a more efficient manner. The conventional data storage technology simply cannot handle the large chunks of data that will be produced in future. Additionally, the proliferation of input-output devices will continue to power the next-generation data storage market in the coming decade or two. Now, data is produced in vast quantities in practically every sector.
Next generation storage takes the form of cloud-based disaster recovery, all-flash storage arrays, hybrid array, holographic data storage and Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR). These emerging technologies will help to store, secure and recover huge volumes of data that older legacy systems would have struggled with. Hybrid array and all-flash array are highly popular storage techniques. At the enterprise level, EMC is working hard on R&D, while Intel and Micron have developed 3D NAND technology to ramp up the data processing speed in solid state drives.
The overall outlook for storage appears slightly different in Africa compared to other parts of the world. For example, cloud storage clearly offers many advantages over traditional digital data storage in the African setting. Most notably, it is exceptionally flexible, because it allows data access from anywhere and can be expanded as much as required as storage needs grow. It is extremely simple and cost-efficient, since there is no hardware to maintain and no staff to employ. That may explain why start-ups, such as Digital Cabinet have secured funding for their foray into cloud storage.
Africa’s technical legacy also lends itself to cloud storage as the de facto choice. The continent still contains some of the poorest countries in the world, with power and telephony infrastructure often years or even decades behind first-world countries. However, as Digital Cabinet’s Daniel Kritzas points out, there is an ironic twist, because African markets are often in a position to ignore much of the developed world's historical dependence on older technologies (such as fixed-lines and on-site servers) and leapfrog directly to cellular infrastructure and cloud-based solutions.