On a recent trip to Paris, I sat with a group of partners talking about wine and virtualization (a natural pairing, if I do say so myself). I love a restaurant where I can bring my own wine if I choose, but this isn’t the norm in most restaurants and certainly wasn’t the case on that particular night. Instead, I was locked in to their wine list and could only order what they offered, at a steep markup.
So, what does that have to do with virtualization? Everything, when it comes to virtualizing the storage tier.
Everyone wants flexibility and choice without being locked-in to specific hardware requirements. This choice largely exists today in the server and desktop tiers, thanks to the widespread adoption of virtualization software. But when it comes to the storage tier, hardware vendors act like restaurants – they want to lock you into their proprietary product list and sell you the most exotic varieties at a huge markup. We believe in freeing customers from this flavor of hardware vendor lock-in by decoupling the virtual infrastructure from the underlying disks. This is what I’m calling B.Y.O.S. (Bring Your Own Storage).
We have to remember that virtualization isn’t just about consolidation anymore. It’s about creating agile and enduring infrastructures with software solutions that evolve and adapt over time. It’s about allowing you to select whatever hardware you want, to extend the useful life of that hardware, and to radically increase the ROI of your IT infrastructure over current levels.
There’s little doubt that pent up demand has storage hardware vendors hopeful. According to industry reports, the data storage market roared back in 2010. The demand from those who deferred upgrades or avoided a refresh cycle is real. However, it doesn’t signal a trend back to hardware dominated infrastructures. On the contrary, there remains a large appetite for clouds, virtual desktops, and storage virtualization, which highlights the increasing reluctance of buyers to rely strictly upon physical infrastructures.
Customers are justifiably more cautious than they were before the recession, and are, frankly, more savvy as to their options. They are eager for a cushion against the rapid obsolescence of hardware devices. When times got tough and budgets tight, the traditional “throw hardware at the problem” approach to capacity and performance planning was no longer an option, and they had no way to evolve their infrastructures to support better business continuity and agility. They couldn’t repurpose existing hardware, or easily bring new vendors into the mix. So in effect, they weren’t just locked into vendors; they were locked into failure.
I believe that we will look back on this era as the turning point for storage hardware, and the end of the “throw hardware at the problem” mentality. Enterprises don’t want to select their storage off a proprietary overpriced list anymore. They want B.Y.O.S. They want to make more use out of what they have, and to have unlimited choice when it comes to purchasing new hardware. This is the power of the storage virtualization software advantage – it breaks vendor lock-in and enables so enterprises, finally, can begin realize the business benefits that caused them to explore virtualization in the first place.