Blog Why Traditional Enterprise Storage is So Expensive

Mar 25, 2021
Traditional storage vendors are large public corporations whose foremost obligation is to deliver shareholder value. Through a proprietary, closed-source approach born decades ago, they promote a mindset of scarcity and create environments that lock customers into ecosystems that are difficult and costly to change.

By keeping it closed, vendors can ensnare customers into a more resource-intensive and expensive model while promising that solutions will be forthcoming. Their goal is to grow fast, improve margins, and extract the maximum customer revenues by preventing alternatives from getting a foothold.

This has been the storage model for decades. Where there had only been proprietary solutions before, Open Infrastructure has become the dominant model for operating systems (Linux), containers (Kubernetes), databases (NoSQL) and many more layers of the stack. So, why has the model for storage remained unchanged when the rest of IT infrastructure has evolved beyond it?

The Open Source Choice​

By contrast, Open Storage is built around a mindset of abundance, where the best products and user experience win in the marketplace. The combination of an open-source community, customers, and vendor support yields a confluence of innovation that no lone source could provide.

At iXsystems, we seek to give our customers more choice in how they can store, access, and manipulate their data. We call this Data Freedom, which we define as: what all organizations ultimately want and expect from storage: flexibility and choice. In other words, the freedom to go faster, lower infrastructure costs, and reduce operational effort. In our model, the only “lock-in” we strive for is a user and customer experience so gratifying that customers don’t ever need or want to leave.

Rising Costs​

Odds are you’ve seen articles and discussions of increasing hardware prices. Here are two recent examples highlighting expectations that storage will be more expensive in 2024 than it was in 2023:

There is no more serious business than protecting data thus storage is naturally the last place where anyone would want to skimp. Vendors prey on this emotion, persuading customers that the value they claim is worth paying more for, and the only way you can be successful. But, the reality is, the “big” brands charge more because they must. Their business model relies on meeting Wall Street and investor expectations, where growth and profit are the only measures.

Alternatives are bad for the status quo, especially when an alternative is rated equally or more highly. One way for an alternative to rate more highly is to be focused on delivering what the customer wants/needs as opposed to the vendors’ business model.

What Can I Control?​

If you are part of the selection process for infrastructure vendors, what’s most under your control is your “short list”. Alternative brands often cost less as they are in a “challenger” position against the leading brand. Any organization has the option to consider “challenger” brands and non-commercial tools. What might have been the best or only choice in the past, might not be the best one today.

While broadening the list of choices, new requirements can also be added in the spirit of “skating to where the puck is going”. Don’t plan based upon the past, rather envision what your future will bring. You have the power to ensure your investments today will align with the future of both the market and your data center infrastructure.

Where Is The Puck Going?​

The best choice today is storage that is compatible with, and optimized, for where the market is going. The good news is that the marketplace trajectory is becoming more flexible in its deployment options, more capable by including functionality , more open in its development model, all while delivering better value overall to those deploying it.

According to research, analysts recommend that organizations explore the emergence of the “edge storage platform” (ESP). The ESP is where data manipulation and transformation at the edge will create value most quickly. As part of the larger “universal storage platform” (USP) architecture that unites edge, cloud, and core data centers, ESPs are best optimized for certain workloads, use cases, and data service management methods.

These requirements are different from traditional and legacy data center models and must include:

  • Flexibility to scale up and down cost-effectively
  • Software-defined storage with self-healing technology
  • Support for Block, File, Object, and App storage with Kubernetes
  • Centralized data management
  • Data transfer/transformation optimization

It will be interesting to see how the definition of “storage” evolves over time. One thing is for sure, traditional storage vendors face a significant challenge in meeting these new requirements.

The Elephant in the Room​

If I am not paying for it, how can I trust it will not fail? This is a very human reaction. No one has ever lost their job for choosing a top-branded, premium-positioned solution when it inevitably suffers a fault. After all, your data is priceless and the best solutions are always costly, so your storage should be expensive, right?

Mathematically, how can you calculate the currency-equivalent value for reliable storage solution operations if its software is open source and freely distributed at no cost? Your high school math teacher stated that anything divided by zero is undefined; that sounds risky. Perhaps it might be best to take a different perspective when considering value creation for storage.

Same Outcome, Lower Cost​

Generic medicines are considered by most (including regulators) to be “as effective” as Big Pharma offerings with the same active ingredients. Packaging, marketing, sales, etc. are very different for a leading brand as they have market position to protect and stakeholders to appease. None of this impacts the efficacy of the medication, but it does affect the sales price.

Just as being free is not a disqualifier for having value, lower-cost open products should not be presumed to be of lower quality by design. Challengers streamline or reduce much of the cost structure to deliver an equivalent product at a lower price point. We are champions of open infrastructure. Read more about how iXsystems passes these savings on to our customers.

Experience it for Yourself​

The Open Source model has many advantages in reducing software development costs. It can even bring features to fruition more rapidly as community members assist in the development effort. This is a fundamentally different approach that delivers greater value at lower expense while providing what customers want in their storage solution.

Sounds too good to be true? We encourage you to experience TrueNAS for yourself today (download TrueNAS here), listen to what our customers are saying on Gartner’s Website, or if you’re storing critical data, feel free to schedule a call with one of our helpful Solution Advisors.

Still curious about why we do what we do? Check out this video with some of the faces behind TrueNAS, sharing their perspectives on what it is like for iXians to come to work every day and deliver TrueNAS to the world.

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