Hyper-converged storage solutions are beginning to disrupt the traditional IT storage market. But why is it that many hyper-converged products can only be purchased as an appliance, where the hardware and storage software are bundled together? Ironically, while these vendors claim that their true value is in their software, they still lock their customers into a specific type of server hardware. This is no different from how storage arrays are purchased, locking customers into a particular hardware while selling on the software value.
On the other hand, a 100% software data platform, purchase of which can be separated from the purchase of server hardware, offers a great deal of flexibility.
By purchasing a data platform that runs on standard servers, you can choose the right server from a wide selection of vendors. It aligns well with any multi-sourcing strategies that are in place at your company. In addition, having a wide variety of server models to choose from allows you to purchase a configuration that best fits the needs. You shouldn’t be forced to choose from a portfolio of just one (yes, some appliance vendors just offer one model) to four models. Your server decision should be based on the best configuration that matches the use case, application and deployment location. Having the flexibility to pick any of the server specifications – Rack units, CPU cores, memory density, HDD capacity and SSD performance – will help you find the right servers.
From an operational standpoint, purchasing the same servers that you have been buying will allow you to leverage existing server management tools, such as Cisco UCS Manager or Dell OpenManage, and keep your server management environment unified. For support, your server vendor will have the ability to provide better SLAs (same day parts replacement as an example) and geographical coverage – important capabilities that an appliance vendor may not have.
A software solution can also allow you to lower the acquisition cost for the server hardware. Customers can benefit from the larger discounts that come with higher purchasing volumes. And the ability to use any existing spare servers can further reduce cost.
Interestingly, bundling software and hardware together often translates to paying for that software several times. Consider this – a few years after purchasing your solution, you decide it is time for upgrading the hardware to keep up with growing demands. But now, you must purchase another hardware + software bundle, effectively paying for that software again. Conversely with a software data platform approach, you would purchase the new servers and transfer the software licenses over, thereby lowering your long-term acquisition cost.
We found the unique flexibility of a 100% software solution to be one of the key drivers behind our customers’ choice of Springpath Data Platform. Make sure to consider this important criterion when deciding on your hyper-converged infrastructure solution.
In my next post, I will go over the economic benefits of a subscription-based approach to purchasing a software data platform.