The storage market has changed a lot since I got involved with it as a customer in 2004. Back then, a storage purchase involved an RFP for a specific capacity using a specific protocol, and the vendors came in and ran a bunch of synthetic benchmarks to show you how fast they could be. You purchased based on price (primarily), how comfortable you felt, and based on the vendor response and attention to detail. There were few blogs to read or industry forums to participate in, and Twitter was still a twinkle in a smart developer’s eye.
Notably, there was no context. Storage vendors didn’t generally have tight alignment or integration with very many software solutions, and the nuance of how to architect a solution, or even the slam dunk use cases for shared storage outside of databases was lacking, to say the least.
No vendor I dealt with took the time to talk about the operational side of the house, how their product was going to make my business better, or even offered a significant amount of professional or consulting services alongside the purchase.
Storage was sold by storage vendors into storage silos where it was consumed by storage professionals.
Of course, today the storage landscape, both for the customer and the vendor, is very, very different.
Storage is boring.
Silos are being torn down.
Businesses are driving efficiency into every part of their IT organizations.
Integrations into virtualization and business software platforms are the key differentiators for storage vendors looking to drive value into their products. Buying storage is an exercise in understanding the applications, present and future, that your business uses to compete for customers in the market, and selling storage is driven by those same priorities. There are countless blogs, Twitter personalities, and analyst groups that help to guide customers in their decision, each with their own focus and expertise.
In other words, the storage industry now abides by U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s signature motto: Trust, but verify. As a result, buying storage is both harder and easier than it’s ever been.
In order to help make this process easier for potential customers, SolidFire chose to commission a report from the Enterprise Strategy Group focusing specifically on the cost savings that customers might see by consolidating workloads onto our all-flash array. This isn’t our first engagement with ESG, and this report follows an exhaustive lab testing in 2014 that saw the group strongly recommending SolidFire into enterprise-class data centers.
The goal of the paper was to quantify for the customer the value to them over time in three key areas that SolidFire helps customers capitalize on: Consolidation, Automation, and Scale. Of the many things SolidFire does really well, we differentiate in these three areas the most, and showing customers what they can expect to see, especially when so many enterprise storage vendors fail to deliver these critical features, was important to us. Overall, we think the ESG testing and methodology shows a compelling value to customers that will help them understand what makes the move to SolidFire such a powerful way to transform how they use storage.
Of course, not everyone puts a lot of faith into analyst reports. Whether it’s ESG or even Gartner and their Magic Quadrant/Critical Capabilities reports (which, by the way, we do extremely well in year after year), there’s always a fair amount of skepticism around how valid the results are. After all, SolidFire commissioned the report; how negative is ESG going to be?
And that skepticism is completely understandable. I feel the same way when I read reports from vendors, and I’ll always encourage customers to take anything said, written, or commissioned by a vendor with a grain of salt. It’s not that I don’t believe in the content and outcomes shown in the ESG report, it’s that SolidFire has to earn that trust. We have to earn it every day, with every blog post, with every interaction on Twitter and LinkedIn. We have to do it in the booth at every show. We don’t get to ask people to trust us, we have to work hard for it. And we will.
In the coming weeks, we’ll have blog posts looking at claims made in the ESG report in more detail.
All of the feedback we’ve gotten from customers has been positive. We love answering questions and explaining how SolidFire helps customers do things they’ve never been able to do with a legacy storage platform.
Read. Be skeptical. Ask hard questions. Demand straight answers. We are here when you are ready.