2. More network attached storage appliances
Network attached storage (NAS) appliances have been growing progressively more powerful over the years, narrowing the gap with entry-level SANs. Indeed, many new NAS products released today are certified for virtualization platforms such as VMware, Hyper-V, and Citrix, with more advanced models capable of replication between NAS or even supporting cloud storage such as Amazon's Simple Storage Service as an additional tier of data backup.
Expect this trend of powerful NAS to continue and even accelerate in 2012. For SMBs, mid- to high-end NAS models have attained a sufficient level of performance and features to effectively serve as the primary storage for smaller businesses, or in branch offices of larger organizations. As such, small business and enterprise will deploy more NAS in 2012, and possibly even using them as SAN-replacements in certain cases.
3. USB 3.0 devices abound
You've heard this before, but USB 3.0 should finally make itself felt in 2012. One key change is Intel's official commitment to SuperSpeed USB, evidenced by the integration of USB 3.0 support in upcoming chip sets. This is expected to drive USB 3.0 adoption next year as they become available, greatly increasing the overall appeal for manufacturers to make USB 3.0 devices.
With a data transfer rate of up to 5Gbps, the widespread availability of USB 3.0 will have wide-ranging effects. For one, portable storage devices such as flash drives and portable HDDs will be even more popular than before. Moreover, SMBs are likely to be presented with more options in terms of easy-to-deploy USB 3.0-based Direct Attached Storage (DAS) devices. Instead of having to struggle with eSATA or fiddling with special interface cards, new USB 3.0 storage appliances or tape drives could be easily deployed for the purpose of data backup and restoration for key workstations and servers.
4. Thinner, lighter Ultrabooks challenge MacBook Air
Despite the criticism that Intel has attracted over its execution strategy for the company's Ultrabooks, the chipmaker is serious about taking on Apple's increasingly popular MacBook Air with a new generation of thin and lightweight laptops. More than 60 models of Ultrabooks will be available in 2012, while rival chipmaker AMD has also recently indicated that it is working on its own ultrathin laptops.
Ultimately, it is clear that a fundamental shift is taking place to the laptop's form factor. By stripping out the venerable optical disc drive and moving toward more advanced materials, computer makers are shifting from thick and bulky laptops to a computing future that is both thin and light. With the Ultrabooks' longer battery life and lower prices than conventional laptops, we suspect many SMBs will buy into Ultrabooks for use in the office.
5. SSD prices fall, HHD gets faster
Another trend you can count on in 2012 will be the availability of faster local storage at more affordable prices. Prices of solid-state disks (SSDs) have been declining steadily and are also increasingly being offered as options on laptops. Moreover, Seagate in November launched its second-generation Hybrid Hard Disk (HHD), which is a standard hard disk drive paired with built-in SLC-based flash memory for heightened performance. Seagate says the Momentus XT can achieve a bootup time comparable to SSDs after a brief "learning" period.