Are storage vendors trying to force you into infrastructure that looks like a flexible consumption model – but isn’t really?
Lack of adaptation is the one of the greatest existential threats faced by all creatures. Once upon a time, giant apes once roamed Southeast Asia. Gigantopithecus is thought to have weighed around 1,000 pounds and stood at 10 feet tall and, but is now gone. Scientists believe that they didn’t adapt to their new environment as their habitat changed.
Today, we see our own proverbial 800-pound gorillas – legacy storage vendors. By providing services to the legacy on-premises storage market via capital purchases, these companies have grown significantly. But that environment is undergoing change – so the habitat in which storage vendors live is changing.
Survival of the fittest
Organisations are now, quite rightly, wanting to move workloads to the cloud. The commercial benefits, operational improvements, and simplified overall experience are all very attractive. Customers want on-premises models that look more like the new world of cloud, not the old world of high operational overheads, multi-year capital purchasing, and the responsibility of delivering SLAs to stakeholders. And savvy CIOs want to escape from the vendor lock-in, risk forecasting, and unpredictable costs that are associated with these issues.
Our ‘gorillas’ are trying to adapt to this new environment. One way they have tried is by introducing flexible consumption models. Theoretically, these models mimic the cloud world with pay-as-you-go models, pricing tiers, and some level of management.
But you need to look carefully when considering these offerings, to make sure this is this real change, rather than an old model dressed up in a new outfit.
When digging into the specifics of the apparent “consumption models” offered by some of the big players, you’re likely to see some striking similarities to typical legacy vendor selling behaviour. Keep an eye out for things like:
- Long-term contracts
- High usage commitments
- Familiar issues around disruptive upgrades rather than true elasticity
Enforced commitment to large amounts of “pay-as-you-go” storage up-front, and then billing those costs over a long period of time with the potential for rebuys offers, all feels more like a lease than actual adaptation, with little additional benefit.
At least with a lease, your payments are fixed and not subject to ongoing increases based on higher than expected usage on a few occasions.
If you’re evaluating these services, make sure you ask all of the usual questions, and then ask some more:
- What happens if you need more capacity?
- Does the vendor tell you that you need more capacity, or do you tell them?
- What’s the process to expand the kit in your data centre as your needs change?
- What impact does expansion or additional usage have on your contractual costs?
- How much downtime will you have to deal with for upgrades or expansion?
- Are they willing to put “zero-planned downtime during upgrades and expansions” in an SLA for you as a contract term?
- Do you have options to reduce your committed spend if your needs change?
- Is the service linked to an identified asset? Will your accounting department be able to recognize the spend as OPEX?
- Given changes in working patterns recently, how would your bills and rate structure change as a result of an unexpected increase in remote workers?
- What would happen if you suddenly exceed your committed capacity, or are trending to exceed available capacity in the next 90 days? If expansions are needed, are they disruptive? how much do they cost? If hardware needs to be upgraded, are those costs included in the service or do they incur additional charges? Would a new contract be required?
These “services” are likely to be delivered in a very similar way to a lease, and that shouldn’t be a surprise. Legacy vendors have spent years building out financing relationships to help you pay for expensive hardware over longer periods of time. For some, adaptation is trying to pretend the world isn’t changing and continuing with business as usual – the usual overprovisioning, usual over-commitments, and usual vendor and revenue lock-in, just with the new buzzword of “consumption” layered in.
A new species
But there are alternative options, vendors working at the next evolutionary level, and delivering storage as a service to provide a flexible way for enterprises to consume storage.
A usage-based model should be simple, and similar to the way cloud infrastructure is consumed – with options for service tiers, short-term contracts, and the ability to start small and grow over time.
These new vendors remain focused on adapting to the changing market. Signing a usage contract shouldn’t feel like signing a lease, and you can expect a hassle-free experience as well as the highest quality of service. Building on a non-disruptive operational model means you can grow and expand your storage as a service environment as you need it – without large commitments. You can also track and predict your usage, and the service maintains additional headroom, so you don’t need to worry about growth.
When it comes to usage, some legacy vendors charge a premium for exceeding your usage commitment, which can become the new basic minimum service cost. With storage as a service, you can exceed your committed storage capacity and consume on-demand for peaks or seasonal workloads, and the rate for on-demand usage will continue to be the standard rate – not a punitive rate.