What, if any, is the value of multi-year storage uptime?

Xiotech and Atrato promise 5 and 3 year uninterrupted service on their new arrays. Now it is time to ask, as some commenters have, so what?

After all, enterprise data centers are already well-equipped to deal with disk failures. RAID keeps the data available. 7×24 service replaces the failed drive with a new hot spare. Experienced storage admins paper over the cracks.

It isn’t like you’re going to fire all your storage admins just because arrays stop breaking.

Opex vs capex
The direct cost saving – no maintenance contract for x years – may or may not be reflected in the purchase price. From a buyer’s perspective there are 2 costs: the capital expense – capex – and the operating expense – opex. Opex is fully tax deductible in the year incurred, so it is easier to get.

Atrato and Xiotech need to think creatively about maintenance pricing.

Breaking into the glass house
Breaking into data centers with the promise of cost savings isn’t easy. The provable cost savings have to be 50% or better to get conservative data centers to change vendors. And it helps if there is a recession or the business is tanking. Motivation.

A case can be made that after adding up a standard array’s maintenance costs, random disruption costs and additional management it will be cheaper to go with the new product. The CFO will demand it.

But if you want to change the market, you have to change the way the market thinks.

Re-thinking the issue
Straight cost-displacement arguments aren’t going to have the legs both companies would like. They need a different model.

Enterprise IT is manufacturing plant – not an engineering testbed. It confuses the engineers because it seems like a techie haven – but it isn’t.

It is all about shipping product, each and every day. Like a real factory.

Everyone accepts that statistical process control has changes the face of manufacturing. A core idea behind SPC, reducing variability improves quality, is directly applicable to IT factories.

What Atrato and Xiotech do, ideally, is reduce IT ops variability. There is always a known level of performance. Availability is 100%.

Thus most of the usual dependencies are no longer dependencies. I/O slowdowns and timeouts should disappear. Drive rebuilds won’t impact performance. Admins won’t pull the wrong drive – which happens about 2% of the time – and bring down the array. And so on.

The StorageMojo take
Enterprises over-configure because they never know what is going to hit them – but they do know it will be at the worst possible time. Ideally they want to be ready to handle the biggest shopping day of the year – even after an array failure.

Workload variability isn’t going away. But wouldn’t it be nice if equipment performance and availability variability did?

That’s what Atrato and Xiotech are selling. I wish them luck communicating a value prop that strikes at the heart of what every other array vendor is selling.

Comments welcome, of course.