Ben Savage, EMEA Head of Channels and Alliances, Pure Storage, on why all-flash storage is transforming partner programmes.
The key technologies today that are enabling digital business are greatly influencing the composition of the data centre. Inside the data centre the challenges of data management continue to grow exponentially. The task of managing the cost of storage, providing the right platform for workloads, and ensuring the path forward is simple and predictable has become a critical success factor. This challenge is alike for the end user, the channel partners, and storage vendors.
Trends like digital transformation, mobility, analytics and cloud, require the right selection of storage platforms to match the workload. Should data be on-premise or off-premise; public cloud or hybrid cloud; can workloads be moved easily from one platform to another; can platforms be easily upgraded over time; are the costs of platforms predictable and manageable; can costs be reduced on traditional platforms? These are the challenges that end customers are facing and are looking for answers from their strategic solution partners and vendors.
Solution partners are looking to make sense of the transformation that is taking place across storage solutions and data platforms. They also need to be able to understand their customer requirements at present, and into the future. Partners want to engage with vendors who can offer storage roadmaps that are simple, predictable, repeatable, scalable and profitable. They need their vendor partners to be innovative at every stage of development for the long run. On top of all that, solution partners need to be able to add their layer of value, personalised for their customers. Neither the partner nor the customer can deal with additional complexity or cost unpredictability at this stage.
The increasing importance of simplicity and cost management around storage has drawn attention to the limitations of traditional storage solutions. With rapid expansion in the requirement of data capacity, traditional storage solutions fast reach their performance limitations dictated by the initial controller and architecture technology. While storage capacity can be added, the solution is limited by a performance lock. To get to the next level of performance is usually complicated, expensive and cumbersome.
Typically, the upgrade is a new solution and a new purchase. Data needs to be migrated and there is downtime for the end customer due to slow transfer speeds. Some of the older data structures and libraries may get affected during migration. The migration of data can be complex, and require external professional services. And finally the maintenance contract renewal is often more expensive than the previous one – a good reason for solutions partners and end customers to look at other alternatives.
Enter all-flash arrays. These are built on solid-state technologies and have near zero latency times to access and transfer data. Recent all-flash storage solutions from select vendors are also helping solution partners avoid the murky waters created by complex and expensive ‘forklift upgrades’ from traditional storage vendors. All-flash maintenance and service programmes involve incorporating contractual costs to the initial performance metric unit of the solution – that is IOPS per GB. As the end-user solution scales in storage capacity over time, the per unit cost remains constant and even reduces, ensuing from benefits of Moore’s law applied to all-flash storage.
This predictability of maintenance and service costs around all-flash solutions helps partners to have confidence in the profitability of engagements with customers and the underlying partnership with the vendor. For customers, predictable maintenance and services costs around all-flash storage is a simplification and positive alternative to traditional storage solutions.
Another benefit for customers created by all-flash storage solutions is the ability to jump the technology cycle by upgrading the controllers of the array. Many all-flash vendors are including an upgrade of the controllers at fixed intervals of time under their maintenance programmes. However, if the customer wishes to initiate the upgrade earlier, innovative vendor trade-in programmes may also exist to facilitate the seamless migration into denser capacity solutions. Migration of data in an all-flash environment, unlike traditional storage solutions, can be much faster and without downtime. These all-flash vendors have raised the bar by innovating on the underlying storage architectures and their associated programmes. For the solution partner, the ability to manage customer requirements through a built-in upgrade programme allows customers to deploy storage once and keep expanding and improving it for 10 years or more, all without any downtime, performance impact, or data migrations and this becomes the basis of a win-win relationship. While managing technology growth requirements and providing financial gains to the customer are made possible by such programmes from all-flash vendors, vendors also gain by increased loyalty from solutions partners.
In line with what is happening globally, there is a tsunami of disruption that is engulfing the storage industry – we have seen a collapse in ‘big ticket’ enterprise disk storage and this will accelerate in the next 12-18 months with the widespread adoption of all-flash arrays and converged infrastructure. For partners looking to build a competitive advantage and break into new accounts, this presents an incredible opportunity. In today’s fast changing marketplace increased partner loyalty remains a key differentiator for all-flash storage vendors versus traditional storage vendors.