Anyone that has kept up with this column knows I tend to focus on one storage architecture more than any other \u2013 the hybrid-cloud storage architecture. That\u2019s because I truly believe in its ability to meet the challenges of today\u2019s IT storage \u2013 ever-expanding data, multiple sites, a need for flexibility and scale, while simultaneously meeting specific performance demands. For this month\u2019s column, I thought we would take a look at how we got to this point and see if this evolution informs where we might go in the near future.\nEarly days \u2013 pre-NAS\nThe very earliest business storage systems were designed for a world long-gone. One in which a business would be expected to manage maybe thousands of files. Even the largest enterprise would have a storage system to support hundreds of concurrent users, no more. These legacy systems had regularly scheduled down time for maintenance, but it was not unusual to not have access for unscheduled reasons.\nIn this case, we\u2019re talking about simple hard drives and Direct-Attached Storage (DAS) such as SCSI drives, which is really just an extension of a server. As we all know, this is a relatively fragile system with hard drives being prone to failure. However, even for most businesses, this is essentially pre-Internet and the amount of data that had to be protected and managed was minimal.\nRise of NAS\nIt wasn\u2019t until the early 1990s, when dedicated file servers and earlier proprietary NAS devices from company like NetApp and EMC were created to meet the growing need for scalable, reliable access to data.\u00a0 In fact, it was a group of engineers that formed Auspex Systems that was one of the first to create a file server for the UNIX market. These solutions were a direct response to need to manage data and helped create the pathway for data becoming the \u201cnew oil.\u201d\nOf course, most of these NAS solutions were designed for only the largest of enterprises. It wasn\u2019t until the mid-2000s that viable solutions for the SMB and the consumer markets began to come to market. Examples are ReadyNAS and Synology. These solutions had similar functionality to enterprise NAS, albeit with smaller capacity and stronger focus on ease of use and affordability. These solutions also began to incorporate online backup solutions for disaster recovery.\nThe introduction of cloud storage\nAt the same time SMB and consumer NAS was developing, cloud storage services for the consumer and enterprise were also making waves. At least initially, these services from Dropbox and others were truly only thought to be for consumers, but eventually other services like Box were created to address enterprise cloud storage needs.\nAs with many areas of IT, the cloud served as a disruptive event, bringing to levels of scalability, flexibility and management to a legacy market. However, this services market still had a glaring drawback \u2013 performance at scale was (and in many cases is) atrocious. It also created a shadow-IT problem where IT managers do not have good visibility and traceability of data, an increasingly important consideration as more emphasis is put on privacy and data breaches.\u00a0 The change to per user pricing can also drive up costs.\nHybrid Cloud NAS for the enterprise\nLarger enterprises were able to mitigate the performance issues by either continuing to rely on on-premise storage solutions or looking to a new model that combined the best of both approaches (cloud scale with real-time performance). This hybrid-cloud model continues to gain momentum with enterprises everywhere.\nHybrid Cloud NAS supports the use of on-prem cache to keep the performance of a file server while safely storing data in the cloud. And they also stay compatible to standard enterprise security setups such as Active Directory, so admin workflow is not changed. Furthermore, there is a cloud distributed file system that enables the syncing of files across multiple sites, extending the NAS architecture to cloud and globally. Panzura and Nasuni are two examples of enterprise-class hybrid-cloud storage solutions.\nThe hybrid cloud NAS for SMBs\/MSPs\u00a0\nDespite the success of this hybrid model, many of these solutions remained out of reach for SMBs and others due to their enterprise price tag. However, even the SMBs were feeling the extreme pressure to modernize by better managing and protecting their data. That brings us to the present day, when firms such as my own \u2013 Morro Data \u2013 are bringing enterprise-class storage functionality combined with flexibility and reliability of the cloud and the performance of an on-premise solution to smaller but still sophisticated organizations around the world.\nHybrid cloud models with support for implicit backup, multi-site file sync, large file collaboration and centralized management greatly simplify IT allowing IT managers and service providers to focus their time on business value creation.\nWhat\u2019s coming next?\nIn determining what may be on the horizon, we can be sure of a few market pressures that are shaping the evolution of storage. First, data is growing at an exponential rate and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The IoT, Big Data, and more and more applications are going to add to this growth. Second, the cloud model is here to stay and will further proliferate and influence architectural decisions and access layouts. That means businesses of all sizes need to evaluate and take charge of their storage architecture.\nThe big question remains around performance. Will the cloud network improve performance to make the need for on-premise acceleration unnecessary? Even with the upcoming improvements with new access models like 5G, the volume and growing size of files would seem to indicate this will not happen any time soon.