back to article Cloudy plague will KILL storage vendors, say Gartner mages

“Peak Array” theory, the idea that today's storage vendors and their products don't have long to live, has received another endorsement from the on-stage Mages at analyst outfit Gartner's IT operations and data centre summit in Sydney. In a session titled “The five-year storage scenario – Why storage in 2019 won't look like what …

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Facepalm

I agree....

... it will be nothing like the current situation in 5 years time, but neither is it like it was 5 years ago either. That's the thing with technology it keeps changing.

Still I'm glad these people have solved the minor issue of moving 10's of gigs of data up and down from the cloud each day.

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Anonymous Coward

Gartner Mages..

I wonder if this will be like most of the other gartner forecasts - A load of old hogwash.

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Vendors

Do not vendors sell cloud services?

Is the cloud not a bunch of servers?

Where does all the data go?

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Re: Vendors

Into object storage on commodity hardware. See: Caringo.

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Anonymous Coward

The solid core of the big storage business

I don't know what the ratio is, but some portion of big storage's revenue comes from whales. IT shops with thousands of servers and employees. Individually, whales spend a ton of money. One of my vendor's salescritters tells me that the majority of their revenue comes from a fifth of their clients. They make more off us than they do off 300 small accounts.

Speaking from the belly of a whale, I can say that we can't be served by startups or the cloud. Startups would starve waiting for someone to take their call- if they're going to invest developer hours into technical things, it makes sense for them to build things that will appeal to more accessible datacenters. None of these startups build anything that would be able to do what a VSP, VMAX, or DS8000 can do. And if they tried, they'd go out of business.

As for the cloud, it's seen as too external and risky to be considered for anything but the least important data. Internal cloud is the only thing that's gotten any traction, and that simply amounts to better accounting and self service.

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Re: The solid core of the big storage business

"Enterprise IT" giants make the bulk of their money from...enterprises. Shocker. You're absolutely correct that a large enterprise brings in more revenue per client than an SMB or SME...but there are a sweet holy hooligan more SMBs and SMEs than large enterprises.

Why isn't EMC making their living off of SMB and SME clients? Because there's better value for dollar with the startups, or even with Dell, HP and so forth.

Enterprises don't give a rat's ass about value for dollar. Enterprises are all about massively conservative approaches to everything. Resistance to change borders on an elemental force. Everything at every level with every single person has absolutely nothing to do with advancing the interests of the company itself and everything to do with "covering one's own ass."

Enterprise administrators are the epitome of fear. If they don't know it inside out and backwards then it is evil. No ifs ands or buts. If there isn't training, a certification and so forth then there's no way to ensure that asses are covered. Manuals must exist that qualify as tomes. Certifications must exist so you can say "if I get hit by a bus, you don't have to actually exert brainpower thinking about who to hire, you just hire this shiny certificate." Everything is codified, procedure and the buck stops nowhere because nobody can ever possibly be to blame for anything.

SMBs and SMEs just don't live in that world. They need to be faster and more nimble than large enterprises if they want to survive. They need to be able to do as good (or better) a job while charging less, and that means that "value for dollar" is the driving force behind IT.

Enterprises will uptake technologies that are today considered "startup" territory, but only once 5-10 years have passed since initial introduction. The startups have to either be eaten by an existing enterprise IT vendor, or they have to have ballooned out to some huge size where the majority of the company is no longer engineers, they're content creators and sales people. Documenting every possible configuration and inviting CIOs out to lunch to convince them to spend 100x the money on their solution as they would on a similar solution by a rival startup.

Obviously, large enterprises are doing something right, or they wouldn't be so large. By the same token, it increasingly seems like large enterprises exist to serve the needs of other large enterprises, with large quantities of money flowing 'round in circles at the top and ultimately never really leaving that world.

Large enterprise in increasingly incestuous and simply choosing not to cater to the other 80% of humanity. The top 20% caters to the top 20%...but is also populated by execs and shareholders intent on pulling as much money out of hte system as humanly possible. How long that is sustainable is an open question.

In the meantime and betweentime, all those more agile SMB and SMEs are getting more and more comfortable living in a world where they don't really need to interface with large enterprises at all. They're moving too fast, they're changing too fast, and they don't really want to wait for suppliers or customers to catch up.

The next few years will be interesting. Which will win out? The breakneck pace towards efficiency, automation and innovation seen at the bottom, or the overwhelming inertia of the top?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The solid core of the big storage business

There a few points you make that could stand in another light. Enterprise IT cares deeply about value per dollar, but have a very different cost for downtime and data loss than SMBs. If I have a choice between a 10 million dollar VSP and a 5 million dollar startup (assuming there was some sort of magic startup that could do the same job as a 10 million dollar VSP), I'd have to consider the unknown and unproven nature of the startup. Software bugs get ironed out through use, and if I'm one of the people doing the ironing, I am subjecting myself to a risk that would cost me far more than the difference in price. I don't work at a bank, but imagine if I did- data loss could mean massive legal liability, and potentially a greatly reduced ability to make money.

Enterprise admins make choices that best benefit their company, based on all this. "Epitome of fear" is a bit hyperbolic- we make decisions about how to spend our money considering "total cost", something that the startup salespeople seem to like talking about. They just don't like it when people consider personnel turnover, serviceability, and risk as part of that cost of ownership.

One point I agree on is that we are doing something right. If any large enterprise could become more competitive and reduce costs by going with storage startups or the cloud, they would have done it and reaped any benefits, which would prompt their competition to do the same or be left holding a higher operating cost ratio. The reality is that we all have little projects we use to test out new stuff, and if anything were so significantly better than the established low-risk vendors we tend to use, they would quickly become "enterprise vendors". Case in point: Netapp. It's got footprint in almost every large enterprise, and that wasn't the case even 5 years ago.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The solid core of the big storage business

Enterprise customers don't go with the start-ups mainly because they don't know if and for how long that start-up will be around.

If a bank were to put their data on a start-up's storage, that start-up were then to go out of business (as opposed to being acquired) and the system were subsequently to go down and be unrecoverable, the bank would be fucked. They quite simply will not take that risk for anything important.

SMBs will take the same attitude more often than not. Unless the start-up can seriously undercut the big boys on price, performance or features, they will go with the big guy with the guaranteed support.

Being on-line and keeping the business running is the value per dollar. Everything else is insignificant in comparison.

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Re: The solid core of the big storage business

"Enterprise IT cares deeply about value per dollar, but have a very different cost for downtime and data loss than SMBs".

Bullshit. Nobody can afford data loss these days. This isn't the 90s. As for downtime; Enterprises can afford to Adobe the world for a day and they're fine. It's a little embarrassing, but banks to don't under because the debit machines stopped working again for the umpteenth time due to bank IT screwup. Target still sells shit, even after screwing up and selling you. Enterprises can afford downtime, data loss and screwups because they are too big for the consequences to truly affect them.

If SMBs or SMEs have downtime they are done. They'll lose clients instantly because the world they live is is ultracompetitive and their customers are fickle. Perhaps more to the point, the large enterprises they compete against will instantly jump all over any outage or data loss and turn a marketing machine worth more than the gross annual revenue of the little guy towards smearing their name and driving them out of business.

Large enterprises can survive government interventions that border on inquisitions. SMBs can be murdered by nothing more than FUD.

"I am subjecting myself to a risk"

And there is my point crystallized: cover-your-ass-a-service. It's what really matters to the large enterprise (and large enterprise admins), not value for dollar.

"They just don't like it when people consider personnel turnover, serviceability, and risk as part of that cost of ownership."

What are smoking, and can you please share? This is exactly what (good, successful) startups want you to consider. The (good, successful) startup scene is about making products that are easy to use and reliable.

They aren't always (I would argue rarely are) cheap...but they generally do quite directly address things like "what happens if people get hit by a bus". Not by making a certification program to ensure that you have a $20k certification path to know how to properly swap a hard drive when RAID fails, but by making sure that you don't need that level of training to make the damned thing go in the first place.

There are plenty of bad startups out there that are little more than con jobs. I have a list as long as my arm...but there are plenty of startups that are capitalizing on the fact that some aspect of IT has become so viciously overcomplicated that it needs a good pruning. That small sector has developed into a "specialization" which now exists only to perpetuate the need for that particular specialization to continue to exist. They then set about automating/software-defining/completely-reinventing-the-basics away the need for that level of complexity in the first place.

Perhaps one of the better examples of this is Tintri. Tintri "just goes fast", and for cheap. There are zero nerd knobs to tweak. There is no "optimizing" to be done. It is faster and cheaper than the alternatives, period.

When and where Tintri gets a win and convinces a customer to buy a box, the second, third and so forth follow in short order. They are doing quite well - and even slowly eeking into the large enterprise - because they made a product that is just flat out better than big-brand arrays it is competing against. And it's better because there are no nerd-knobs to tweak, not in spite of it.

Despite this, Tintri earns hyperbolic vitriol from a great many enterprise admins who've never touched it. It's new and "untested" (bullshit!) they say. They can't get into the guts and tweak it (that's the fucking point!). FUD, FUD, FUD. Cut through it - usually 10 beers later - and they just don't want it around because they either A) haven't used it before so they don't understand it or B) their job wouldn't need to exist if they bought it.

"If any large enterprise could become more competitive and reduce costs by going with storage startups or the cloud, they would have done it and reaped any benefits, which would prompt their competition to do the same or be left holding a higher operating cost ratio."

Bullshit, bullshit, and double bullshit. That's the same sort of "people are rational actors" tripe as American conservatives spew. People aren't rational actors, and corporations/governments sure as hell aren't.

Corporations and governments are made up of individuals. Those individuals - by and large - have little-to-no loyalty to the company or government they serve. Individually and collectively they care about one thing: preserving the money that is their salary.

You don't get a bonus for picking the most efficient product that can do the job within the safety margins. You get a bonus for picking the "known good choice" and never taking any risk, no matter how small. As stated above: companies at the size of a large enterprise are big enough to cope with being massively inefficient, even to the point of experiencing huge outages, data loss and so forth.

Large enterprises don't need to be as efficient as the next guy. They just need to be able to scapegoat someone if something goes wrong. That means that the sole focus of people that work there is never being ion a position to be scapegoated, even if that means it costs the business more. It isn't their money, they just don't care.

"The reality is that we all have little projects we use to test out new stuff,"

Completely untrue. First off, a huge chunk of large enterprises absolutely do not have internal skunkworks for IT. They let their competition do that and they then follow the herd by adhering to "best practices" and the whitepaper farm. Nobody at that level is going to be out of business because their IT plant is a little less efficient than the next guy, and they can skimp on the R&D that way.

"and if anything were so significantly better than the established low-risk vendors we tend to use, they would quickly become "enterprise vendors"."

Nope, sorry. I've seen lots of situations in which the startups pass muster on the technical side, meet all the business requirements and otherwise are well suited to operating in a large enterprise (indeed, already are in some other large enterprises), but are shot down as a vendor for purely political reasons. Massive FUD from an admin or team worried about their own relevance is one frequent item, but by far and away the most common is some pointy-haired boss who just doesn't want to lose junkets or clout with his existing junket provider.

Besides, you act as though SMBs and SMEs just roll up to a startup, swallow whatever tripe they spew and toss complete unknowns into production. That's bullshit of the nth order. 80% of the companies I work devote around 1/3rd of their IT budget to R&D and PoCs. Dev and Test are frequently a substantial size of production, right down to companies with as little as $3M in gross annual revenue.

Now, I'll admit, when you get below $1M GAR, everything changes and IT starts to become largely disharmonious consumer-based pap, but - quite frankly - so is everything at that level. There's a reason a huge % of companies never make it to $1M.

Above that, however, and right up to the point where politics dominates over sheer corporate survival, R&D/prototyping/PoCs are absolutely critical. IN the SMB/SME space you only get one chance, and you're usually toast if you botch it.

Remember also that in the SMB/SME space, IT isn't an empire. We don't get to dictate terms to the business. The business demands we provide a given service - and level of service - and you get what you get for budget; there isn't any more to be had.

In the SMB/SME space, we only keep our jobs if we're more efficient than the next guy, without incurring any additional risk.

In the large enterprise space you only keep your jobs if, when something goes wrong, you can both point to a "best practices" document and claim "everyone, everywhere does it this way" and you can redirect the blame cannon onto another scapegoat.

More than anything, this is what holds back the evolution of enterprise vendors. The "new guy" company is the easy target when something goes wrong, even if it isn't actually responsible. Noone wants to be the one responsible for introducing new technology or vendors to the mix because they don't want to be the scapegoat.

There's nothing there about "fitness for purpose" or "value for dollar". It's just fear and politics. Even if the thing is entirely fit for purpose and provides superior value for dollar uptake will be painfully slow in large enterprise.

There are always exceptions to everything above, but even those - such as Netapp - are very slow growing. Even when offering better for value for dollar and when equally fit for purpose, Netapp will still struggle inside a large enterprise for specific deployments due to individual ass covering and fear...and here's a company that has "made it" and has a "presence"!

People are not rational actors, and collections of people are even less so. Large collections of people are panicky herds, and I find your belief that individuals within the belly of a "whale" will do what's best for the whale (instead of for themselves) quaint and alarming at the same time.

It certainly doesn't align with any of my experience, or my research. Maybe you, personally, are a good admin; loyal and true and working for the good of your employer. If so, that makes you rare...and I hope they buy you a bloody island, because if that's the kind of admin you are, they'd better not lose you.

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Re: The solid core of the big storage business

"Enterprise customers don't go with the start-ups mainly because they don't know if and for how long that start-up will be around."

That depends on the startup. The Tintris and Nutanixes of this world aren't going anywhere, but they still struggle mightily. They will either IPO or be acquired, but they're here to stay.

"SMBs will take the same attitude more often than not. Unless the start-up can seriously undercut the big boys on price, performance or features, they will go with the big guy with the guaranteed support."

Wrong. They'll generally pick a relatively established mid-tier player that can undercut the giants on price, aren't likely to turn into a pumpkin and provide "good enough" to "outright excellent" support.

"Being on-line and keeping the business running is the value per dollar. Everything else is insignificant in comparison."

Wrong again; if the cost to be "online and business running" is several times your gross annual revenue then you're pretty much fucked, unless you're willing to consider vendors other than the established top-end large enterprise happy fun club. Shockingly, for every Cisco, there's an Arista. For every EMC, a Tintri, for every HP tape backup division, an Exablox.

Being online and running also means nothing if you don't have enough profit to grow and adapt. In the SMB/SME space, your competitors will be doing it constantly; you need to be able to cut costs enough to have the money for those endeavors without compromising viability. Enterprises have a heck of a lot more leeway here.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The solid core of the big storage business

@Trevor_Pott

I'm not going to quote every piece of your wall of text that I disagree with, but if you disagree with my points, that's your opinion. I'm just saying what I've seen from working in enterprise storage. It's not about FUD or or butt-covering. It's about rational decisions. The rational decision for whale shops is not a startup or the cloud, and if you disagree, you're welcome to try to convince someone to hire you to make decisions for them.

Just don't try to do it at the precise same time as calling them members of a "panicky herd" and chiding them for "covering their butt".

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Re: The solid core of the big storage business

And I'm telling you what I've seen working alongside enterprise storage admins, listening to them talk about their jobs, especially working with and talking to virtualisation admins in large enterprises and extensive discussions with a number of large enterprise CIOs.

Maybe you, personally make rational decisions. Maybe you are even lucky enough to work in a group where other storage admins make rational decisions. It isn't the norm.

Rational choice theory has been largely disproven. Bounded rationality is a better model, but still incomplete. The actions of individuals in a large corporate or government environment are no more rational than an electorate, or any other element of largeish social dynamics.

Additionally, I'm not "chiding" anyone for "covering their butt." I'm observing. I don't actually care who buys what...only why they do. It is the why that captures my interest.

I do, however, flatly disagree with your statement "the rational decision for whale shops is not a startup or the cloud, and if you disagree, you're welcome to try to convince someone to hire you to make decisions for them." That's a sweeping judgment and as such is patently idiotic.

It is rational for large enterprises - or anyone else - to consider all technologies and technology providers on a case-by-case basis to determine fitness for purpose and value for dollar. What "category" they happen to fit in is utterly irrelevant. Some cloud services and startups (I personally argue most) cloud services are utterly worthless. Many are not. The rational choice is take the time to figure out which is which and see who/what can provide you an advantage.

And with that you prove my point: prejudice and gut reaction ruling responses over quantification and empirical testing. Bounded rationality in play, and the rational actor theory lies dead.

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Re: The solid core of the big storage business

Additionally, the fact that you would say "Just don't try to do it at the precise same time as calling them members of a "panicky herd" and chiding them for "covering their butt"" indicates that you are on some level perfectly aware that most people are not rational actors. Their emotions play a role, from feelings of being talked down to right through to prejudices.

It is by recognizing the reality of this - in ourselves and in others - that we can best ensure our desires are met. Even that pinnacle of rationality, the enterprise storage admin must have their irrational and emotive self addressed equally if not more critically than their rational self.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The solid core of the big storage business

When considering technology, the determination of fitness will be partly based on information like "how many install-years does this platform have". This is because platforms with a low number of installations and/or a short history are statistically more likely to cause problems than systems with larger install bases and longer histories.

Quantification and empirical testing are absolutely the tools used to determine which platform wins the RFP, but not inviting unproven platforms to participate doesn't count as prejudice, in my book. Unless you honestly believe that early adopters have no increased risk compared to conservative IT shops.

How many install-years it takes for something to be considered "proven" is obviously going to depend on the people. That's where gut reactions might get introduced.

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Re: The solid core of the big storage business

"When considering technology, the determination of fitness will be partly based on information like "how many install-years does this platform have"."

Yes and no. "How many install years does this platform have while serving use cases like or almost like mine" might be more accurate. 10,000 install-years serving bulk block storage for virutalisation means nothing if I am going to use the same device to store 100M small jpegs! (As one example I run across all the time...)

"Quantification and empirical testing are absolutely the tools used to determine which platform wins the RFP, but not inviting unproven platforms to participate doesn't count as prejudice, in my book. "

Your book is wrong. Establishing a policy regarding "how many install-years a given vendor/product needs before we consider it" should never be up to one individual. It should be based on a statistical analysis of empirical data. There's also no reason whatsoever to believe that new products from an established vendor will do any better than products from a startup, so they should not get a pass, but be subject to the same constraints as any other vendor.

I entirely understand the mentality "let someone else walk through the minefield," but I am also entirely aware that if everyone does this, then technology never advances. If you start adding exceptions such as "well, new products are okay as long as they're from an established vendor" you're only getting right back to gut feelings and comfort zones and kyboshing the entire idea of empirical study.

The pedigree of the startup matters. Who is making the tech? Do they have a history of knowing what they are talking about? Do they have any reference customers that have similar implementations to yours? Have they run it in enough places to know what the limitations are, and are they willing to be honest about those limitations?

My list of questions and qualifications is longer than my arm...but I will apply that as much to a Microsoft or a Cisco as I will to any startup. The age of the company doesn't matter; the people running it do. I'm just as likely to get screwed by a behemoth of an IT vendor as I am by some young pup; the difference is that the young pup needs me to survive, the behemoth doesn't.

So hey, if you can dig up enough empirical evidence to do a proper statistical analysis and say "storage vendors serving this market tend to have higher failure rates in their products until they have this many install-hours" then that is a great basis for a rational decision regarding whom to include and whom to exclude. Not only have numbers to back your cutoffs, but tracable logic as to why you chose that cutoff and not some other.

"My feels say they should have been around for this long before I care" is not rational, no matter how you dress it up. It's gut feeling masquerading as reasoning. It's also very human, and very common.

It also means that when you try to shift tech you cannot assume rational actors. IT nerds love to believe they're rational; a large part of their self image is wrapped up in this concept of mental superiority over the hoi polloi...but ultimately, their decisions are emotionally based...just like those of other people.

Reference customers are important, but once past the point where enough folks have banged on your use case to beat the bugs out, you're just as likely to have the big boys' toys blow up as the small 'uns. Finding the stats on exactly where, that depends on your individual use case.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The solid core of the big storage business

"Your book is wrong. Establishing a policy regarding "how many install-years a given vendor/product needs before we consider it" should never be up to one individual. It should be based on a statistical analysis of empirical data. There's also no reason whatsoever to believe that new products from an established vendor will do any better than products from a startup, so they should not get a pass, but be subject to the same constraints as any other vendor. "

I never implied it was a single person. I also never implied that new products from established vendors get a free pass. I get the feeling that you're having an argument with someone other than me.

"The pedigree of the startup matters"

No it doesn't. That determines what they sell, but what they're selling is all that matters.

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Re: The solid core of the big storage business

"Man is not a rational animal; man is a rationalizing animal." That's a paraphrase of something that I read long ago and over the years got to meet on a daily basis. I could wax long on the what, where, why, and how, but typing isn't something I do well anymore (nervous system problems). Your argument follows right down the path of microeconomics, games theory, and wanders into psychology, sociology, anthropology, and anything else that tries to explain the why of what humans do as a matter of course which actually confound rationality.

I've worked in a couple of the largest enterprises on earth and this engineer's and economist's experiences and observations match yours. Even to the smallest of businesses as well. Econometrics and sociometrics, to name two disciplines useful in measuring the behaviors of actors (individually and collectively), simply point out the obvious of the first sentence above. And it's actually funny that people will turn around and attempt to assert they are rational about there actions even while they are contrary in fact.

[This is how an engineer who went back to the university ended up making a detour into the social sciences and stayed.]

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Holmes

They missed a wave!

It's interesting Gartner is breaking ranks with the march of the Big Battalions. That's very rare for them to do. Still, they didn't go far enough!

We will see a major move towards white-box storage, driven by both low price points and volume shipped to CSPs. Liken this to the evolution into Linux for systems and I think you get the picture.

The result will be a race to the bottom on prices, which generally is good for the consumer, but not so for the larger traditional providers. Software-Defined Storage reflects that fear, as the realization that value will be in the software not the hardware.

But there are only so many software stacks needed and the open-source community is working on that too. The traditional big vendors are going to need good futurists to guide through this!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They missed a wave!

"Liken this to the evolution into Linux for systems and I think you get the picture."

I like this analogy, but I disagree with your conclusion. There's plenty of VMWare, Windows, and Unix making vendors money these days, even though Linux is mature. Whitebox and software defined storage are going to get a footprint, in my opinion, but there will always be a market for EMC, IBM, Netapp, and HDS.

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