The world has come a long way since the early days of data storage in the late 20th century. Today, digitally-based storage has become mainstream, rising on the successes of “big tech” companies in the early 2000s. Yet new models are emerging, based on Web3 technologies such as blockchain, which challenge this centralised model. Below, we paint a picture of the global data storage market in 2023, key trends, main players, rising stars, opportunities and risks for investors to consider over the months ahead.
Market overview: Data storage
In 2023, the global market for data storage is estimated at $247.32 billion (USD) and is projected to reach $777.98 billion in by 2030 (a compound annual growth rate, or CAGR, of 17.8%). The primary offering of data storage providers is enabling businesses to hold, transmit and retrieve operational data – allowing for useful and effective manipulation. A common example is customer data. By giving a company a clearer view of how customers are behaving with brand assets (e.g. their website) and products, directors can make better decisions about how to engage their target audience and drive conversions.
Undeniably, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was instrumental in driving greater worldwide adoption of cloud-based data storage solutions. At the time, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella claimed that the tech giant saw two years of digital transformation in two months – with over 200 million Microsoft Teams meeting participants in just a single day.
Although the era of lockdown and home-based working is arguably over, the legacy of this “digital transformation” is still felt in 2023. By the end of the year, around 48% of knowledge workers, globally, are projected to work either fully remotely (9%) or in a hybrid arrangement (39%). Together, these workers comprise around 71% of the US workforce.
So, digitally-based work (and, therefore, demand for data storage) is not going anywhere anytime soon. Yet some exciting new trends are also emerging. The wider adoption of the Compute Express Link (CXL) standard will be highly valuable for high-performance storage – e.g. Samsung’s CXL-based SSD, which is expected to improve random read performance by about 1,900%. Interestingly, the unsold SSD inventory left over from the early days of the pandemic has contributed to falling prices in 2023. A similar dynamic is occurring in RAND memory.
Yet Web3 is also making a big dent in the wider data storage realm. Decentralised finance (DeFi) becoming more mainstream. Blockchain technology adoption is on the rise and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are becoming more integrated into a wider range of verticals. Traditional intermediaries are being replaced with smart contracts, facilitating greater transparency and programmability. These are encouraging signs, showing that data storage is moving towards a more equitable internet ecosystem where individual users are empowered.
Key players, rising stars & the road ahead
A range of variables are driving strong global demand for cloud-based data storage. Increasing smartphone adoption, the expanding Internet of Things (IoT) and the rise in artificial intelligence (AI) are unlikely to wane in the near future. Together, this presents fertile ground for innovative startups to make their mark – disrupting larger, more comfortable businesses.
The players in the data storage space are well-known. They include the likes of Dell, Inc., IBM Corporation, Microsoft Corporation and Amazon. Certainly, these companies are not being lazy in trying to adapt to rapidly changing data technologies (Microsoft’s integration of ChatGPT into its Bing search engine is a case in point). Yet their bloated natures can make it difficult for them to pivot into specific niches before innovative startups have jumped into the space.
Also, the Web3 model, upon which of these new technologies are built, creates an intrinsic tension with larger, established business models which rest on Web2 principles such as data centralisation and control.
Popular, Web2-based data storage solutions include Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive. However, they have their flaws. In particular, server outages can result in lost data. Security breaches are also not unknown. By contrast, Web3-based solutions can offer unmatched privacy, security and data ownership due to no single point of failure. Decentralised storage also offers a very cost-efficient solution for customers, since little/no massive upfront capital investment is required to build and maintain huge data centres.
Matchpool.com is an interesting niche case study of Web3 data storage. In contrast to the likes of Match.com, Tinder and OkCupid, this blockchain-based matchmaking app connects users via a safe, transparent and trustless ledger rather than via a centralised database. Artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms can also be integrated to enable more reasonable matching of dating partners; also, more quickly identifying and stopping instances of data theft.
Some of the main obstacles to Web3 adoption in data storage include scalability, interoperability and usability. Yet, with strategic thought and creativity from startup founders, these are not inevitable and crippling hindrances in all cases. Decentralisation offers greater data security and transparency. It also implies a high level of consensus and coordination among many nodes. These can be addressed, in many cases, by “Layer 1 solutions” (modifying the base layer of the blockchain) and “Layer 2” solutions (e.g. sidechains).
If you are interested in expanding your portfolio into these kinds of exciting spheres of investing, then we invite you to get in touch with us here at Bure Valley and to consider joining our exclusive investor network:
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