Here we are. 2010 is gone and 2011 is rolling towards us at full speed, high beams on, and honking its two-tone air horn. Per tradition, I have assembled a list of a few technologies to look forward to in the coming year.

SSD & Flash
The mass adoption of flash storage technology in all aspects of computing is fascinating to me. Today you can buy a notebook PC, workstation, desktop, server, or even netbook with an optional SSD. But those storage devices with all of their benefits (high speed, low power consumption, resistance to mechanical failure, environmental ruggedness, etc.), are not always valuable due to their high cost or limited capacity. There are also concerns in high duty cycle applications with the long term reliability of the technology.

Never fear – the brightest minds in the industry have come up with a great solution! Users who want the best of both worlds and get the high performance and improved power handling of solid state storage and the high capacity and reasonable prices of spinning media magnetic hard drives will have many more options in 2011. There are already first generation hybrid hard drives with a super large flash-based cache or intelligence data placement which offer amazing short term performance and somewhat reasonable prices, expect to see more of these drives and wider options. Likewise, at the higher end of the spectrum, RAID systems are improving significantly by taking advantage of separate SSD (Solid State Drives) and SAS and SATA magnetic drives to create large storage arrays where the SSDs are utilized for super-large, shockingly-fast caching and the magnetic drives for high capacity and improve costs per gigabyte.

Even in the SAN arena we are seeing SSDs being added to arrays where over-time caching algorithms and advanced ILM tools will take advantage of the SSDs to significantly improve performance. I imagine the process of choosing the most ideal storage solution for any application will grow more complex with the expanding range of options available to you.

Cloud-Assisted Storage
Or should I write “local assisted cloud storage?” A new technology which I’ve already written and which I expect to see considerable growth in options is cloud based or cloud assisted storage solutions. There are many great advantages to using the cloud for storage, such as improved data resiliency, multi-regional storage distribution & mirroring, pay as you go cost model, and self-provisioning capability. The performance, while potentially phenomenal inside the cloud, is limited by the bandwidth and latency of the network connection to the cloud from the institution creating and using the data being stored.

By introducing a storage appliance to the mix, a device residing locally at the institution with a moderate amount of high performance storage acting as a caching engine for the cloud can vastly improve performance for new and oft used data. End users and application servers can get good performance on the data used most of the time while the less used data can reside comfortably available in the cloud where instant and low latency performance is not a requirement.

This balance between new and old technologies can lead to amazing results as we gracefully move into the next era of computing in the cloud.

COTS, COTS, and more COTS
“Commercial off the Shelf,” COTS, the future of the telecommunications industry’s hardware solutions, is going to start growing in leaps and bounds this year. Network equipment providers have been trying to find a way to offer COTS based solutions for years. I believe this will be the year that transition will start happening at higher rates than before. With recent changes in the supplier landscape, the consolidation of the NEP market, and the aggressive competitiveness in the telecommunications space to offer lower cost services and to roll out new capabilities, the need for hardware platforms which are affordable to acquire, simple to develop on, easy to support, and taking advantage of the development, manufacturing, and scale of a tier-1 provider are finally going to grow in dominance.

Other things to watch
Multicore Software Expertise – While automatic software tools to translate traditionally developed apps to take advantage of multiple core CPUs have been the mainstay of the initial transition to many cores, academics, researchers, and scientists have finally started releasing core training and development tools to make multicore programming more effective and natural.

Computer devices used for Content Consumption – The unexpected success of various tablet products and the vast expansion of broad-functioning smartphones has led to a consumer adoption of non-creative applications, such as media players, book readers, information consumption, and semi-passive computing tools. Expect more of these sorts of devices and applications – AND – expect a massive growth in the back end data centers to deliver the content being consumed.

Storage Growth – This has been a trend for years, but it isn’t slowing down. Data storage demands are only going to increase this year at a rate beyond any pundit’s outrageous claims. We need to accept it, but we need to figure out what we are going to do with all this data. Data mining and analytical tools will have to be improved to the point where all this data can be useful to someone.

This is my vision for technology this year. Be sure to check out what my colleague, Josh Neland, has to say about 2011. Surely there are other aspects I failed to write about above. Please let me know what I am getting right and what I am foolish to assume.