Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Enterprise storage fads

Enterprise storage fads are often like weather vanes and can change direction as quickly as the wind. New theories, old software and overstretched hyperbole are often discussed in the media and at tradeshows simply to satisfy the marketing departments of the vendors who pay for the articles and venues. Finally, there seems to be an awakening within corporate America that enterprise storage is costing way too much money and resources to manage and maintain. The SAN NAS wars have been fought to a draw. The conclusion seems to be as simple as ”different strokes for different folks”. Today’s battle is for budgets and about cost control. Can today’s entrenched storage oligarchs adapt to the needs of the customers in this hyper-sensitive fiscal environment?

The debate has been fairly one sided until recently. The storage oligarchs have locked in users with their proprietary operating systems, and the tertiary vendors try to mimic the big players’ features while trying to lock in their customers with their own proprietary solutions. Although the terminology varies slightly, every vendor is pitching their own version of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

The storage oligarchs like to point out that the fear of lock-in is overblown. After all, they have studies which prove that their point of view is correct and backed by studies and reports from the best analysts money can buy. The oligarchs seemingly ignore the accumulating evidence which proves that end users are embracing open source solutions to cut their costs. Today, many customers look at proprietary software much like water pollution. Similar to pollution (which can be ignored when it starts from a low baseline), proprietary storage can end up creating an increasingly complex migration and clean up when the time eventually comes. It often seems that an oligarch’s sales team overlooks the myriad consequences of their own proprietary software policies, while highlighting how much their competitors solution can cost the customer.

I can't tell you when the storage oligarchs will face a business decline, but there exists another path, one that empowers the end users by leveraging open source solutions. The assumption that all storage can be handled by one proprietary vendor ignores the fact that every organization has different types of storage throughout the organization. There is no predetermined optimum amount of enterprise storage any company must have within its organization. The forces of storage growth and decline are based on users and their needs within their environments. Draftsmen and Civil Engineers have much different needs for their storage resources than Radiology Technicians, Cartoonists and Animators. Storage growth is often the result of uncontrollable external forces. For storage administrators today there needs to be an option that allows them to harness the power of open source solutions which can provide the high availability that enterprise storage requires while addressing the strains on today's budgets. Zerowait has answered this need with our SimplStor solution. After almost two decades in a bipolar world, storage administrators have a choice again. The market has accepted open source solutions for a variety of reasons. With this acceptance storage administrators have begun to embrace the power of Linux, Open Solaris and BSD to provide their storage networks with mass storage at an affordable price.


Monday, March 08, 2010

How much does it cost to save a file?

Imagine if before you saved a PDF on your corporate storage a statement came up that said “This 500 meg file will cost you $1.00 to save on our corporate system.” Charging users for storage is something that is talked about often, but rarely put into place. Setting up the parameters for creating a system would not be that hard, budgets could be set by departments and per person. And there could be extra charges for saving files on based on different back up criteria. The program could also provide weekly, monthly and quarterly email to users suggesting which files had not been accessed since being saved and suggesting they might be ripe for deletion, but unless people are charged for their storage resource usage most would probably ignore the suggested deletions.

Implementing the program would be relatively trivial, but I imagine creating the charge back scheme would elicit howls from just about every department in an organization. Storage is viewed as a free resource by most corporate users, and like any free resource it is used inefficiently. However, as soon as users saw that they were running up against their hard budget end point, I’ll bet they would start deleting the unimportant jokes, presentations and copies of the garbage they are keeping on corporate spinning disks.

Until enterprise storage users are charged for their resource usage they will not have any economic reason to use storage efficiently. Although enterprise storage remains an expensive resource to purchase, manage and maintain by corporate IT staffs, it is viewed as free to end users. Since storage users are not using their storage resources economically or being charged for their usage, corporate IT storage will remain a cost center in the eyes of management.

In this environment, cost conscience corporations will be forced to impose budget constraints on the IT department’s storage acquisitions, service and support contracts. Since companies can’t go after the users of storage, they go after the suppliers. Today many companies are pushing for discounts from their primary storage suppliers, while others are looking for alternatives to the high cost of arrays and support that the major OEM’s are charging.

Zerowait does not have a toll based solution for charging corporate storage resource users, but we do have a variety of solutions for helping storage IT save money on hardware, service and support. In addition to our legacy hardware support business we are introducing a new storage solution which changes the dynamics of enterprise storage costs. Zerowait's SimplStor product line was designed with input from our customers to help them reduce their storage expenditures. When viewed together, Zerowait’s legacy support and SimplStor are an economical solution for the acquisition and maintenance of our customers’ storage resources.