Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Enterprise Storage in the Crosshairs

The Battles of Storage Features are mostly over; the Battles for Storage Value have begun.

 Over the last few months the stock market has marked a steady decline in NetApp’s market valuation and there are rumors again about NetApp being acquired. While EMC and NetApp fight over market share, storage administrators are looking for ways to squeeze value out of their already existing storage infrastructures. Our customers are asking us for creative ways to add storage to their infrastructures so they can put off buying new equipment.
 
 In this age of storage budget austerity a sudden surge in storage requirements for a new application or database could disable a stable storage infrastructure. Despite the strengths of a well-designed storage infrastructure - a solid operating system, a creative and savvy team of Network and Storage administrators - things could get very ugly very fast in the data center. Nobody wants to be the on-call engineer when the last bit of unassigned storage is used up. Experienced Storage and  Network engineers don’t define ‘professionalism’ as being unprepared; they look for reliable and affordable solutions which they can depend on when the storage hits the fan. 

But if an available storage crisis is easy to imagine, a solution to the crisis is harder to see if your team is myopic and can only see the solutions offered by the big storage providers. Many large companies’ storage infrastructures are so big and complex that the simple and obvious solutions are often overlooked.

One of the easiest solutions to implement are off-lease systems of legacy equipment from the big storage providers that are plug and play and certified by the manufacturer. They’ve been expertly maintained by the manufacturer and are guaranteed to work in your current storage environment. Additionally, there are Open Source High Reliability mass storage solutions available that make migrating secondary storage assets easy and affordable.

Another aspect of Storage Value is extended support. Big storage manufacturers have been blackmailing their customers with their “End of Life.” product announcement threats. They play chicken, hoping that their customers are so frightened by their threat to end support of older systems that they win sales of their newer equipment. But independent support companies provide an alternative to the forced upgrade, with many offering global service, support, and monitoring. A few of these companies have been providing high availability support services for over a decade to the largest companies and government agencies and have a reputation for excellence that surpasses the OEM’s. Many companies now view the OEM’s EOL threats as the shouts of a spoiled child who has lost his advantage to the new kid in town.

Smaller companies and organizations charted the path to independent legacy support years ago because their budgets were already tight and they were not as attractive to the sales team of the big storage OEM’s. But as the world economy encounters more headwinds caused by economic uncertainties bigger organizations are looking for credible storage alternatives. Since the larger companies are staffed with great negotiators who know how to play game, they often will allow an independent service organization into their data center to keep the OEM honest. But as budgetary austerity kicks into high gear the independent storage support provider can provide better and more cost effective service and support than the manufacturer can. The OEM’s now face global competition for their service and support by entrepreneurial and nimble organizations dedicated to outstanding service and support in their chosen niches.

Enterprise Storage manufacturers use the threat of an “End of Life “announcement to induce an unwarranted fear of storage infrastructure collapse within their customers. And in a growing economy with storage budgets in abundance the threats can often drive an organization to make the decision to upgrade to the latest and greatest equipment available. But times have changed, and reliable alternatives exist. The new austerity will likely cause a review of storage assets and upgrade paths. And the best run companies will recognize that maintaining and expanding the reliable equipment they have is much more affordable than the costs involved with buying new equipment and enduring another expensive and lengthy data migration.

The Battle for storage value is already under way. And Zerowait is growing.

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