How enterprises hedge their (storage) bets in an uncertain world.
Lock down is a perennial fear for enterprises: nobody wants to find having bet the farm that they at the mercy of a vendor who knows the customer cannot operate without them. So how do you get your storage strategy right? Storage strategy has to follow the main enterprise strategy – and for the following reasons, open source should be part of your strategy.
#1. ‘Betting the farm’ is dangerous. Maintain multiple storage vendors.
It can be tempting to take hold of a vendor’s short and medium term pricing strategy by placing all of your business with them, generating operational simplicity in the process – one set of storage tools and processes does make things easier. It may look particularly attractive in the Cloud. But if you go ‘all in’ you are playing poker with your storage budget and gambling that your vendor partners will not punish you with price increases later.
#2. Pay attention to the Cloud war – it has not been won
Amazon unquestionably currently has the lead in adoption over Microsoft Azure and Google Compute. Nevertheless, everyone knows that Amazon is playing a ‘long game’ of profit tomorrow, not today. Hence, many have a foot in Azure or Google Compute, even when they have a leg in AWS, because there must be an exit plan. But this comes with a price – and that price is operational complexity – a price that can be particularly high in the world of storage, where the new pricing models can be about how much data you move down the wire rather than how much own.
#3. Maintain and expand your skill sets to avoid lock down
Its tempting to reduce complexity by standardising on a small set of suppliers. The upside is that you get simplicity – one approach to storage means its easy to train staff, some are no longer necessary in a cloud scenario, and arguably, you can get on with that ‘core business’ proprietary vendors love to tell you about of serving customers. However, if you don’t know how to exit AWS to move to Azure without crippling operations, if you don’t know how much it costs to repatriate data, and if you’ve got nowhere to put it when you do, you are locked down. See point #1.
#4. Use open source software defined storage – or pay more.
If you use only cloud or only proprietary software, your software and hardware costs will always be greater than they need to be. This is a simple fact – open source means costs savings from moving to commodity hardware, and the total elimination of proprietary software costs. Proprietary storage vendors will tell you – rightly – that cost can reappear as skilled headcount, consultancy and support. But then, if you don’t have skilled headcount, how are you going to maintain your capability to switch cloud providers, and how are you going to assess which vendors to use? Well, given that the obvious answer is hire expensive consultants, we’d argue that the proprietary sales argument is somewhat duplicitous.