Simplicity – The Inflection Point

I just spent the last three days in sunny Phoenix, AZ, at SNW 09. It was a great show – great food, great wine, great exhibits, great sessions, great keynotes – and great customers.


The hot topics were somewhat predictable – SSDs, deduplication, Cloud Storage, Virtualization, and – of course – Scale-Out Storage. What I found more striking was how much progress storage vendors have made towards providing viable solutions to many of the great challenges facing our customers.

The most obvious challenge today is cost – and that cost comes from the deluge of data requirements, the accompanying performance requirements and the management complexity of deploying larger, faster, and more reliable solutions. All at a time when the expectations for ubiquitous technology have increased – just as every organization on the planet has “cost reduction” somewhere in their quarterly goals.

Even my own sweet mother is chewing up TBs of space with pictures of her five grandsons – and that anecdote doesn’t do justice to the storage demands being placed on mainstream IT. Every piece of data has value to it – that value diminishes quickly, but since the presence of the data is infinitely more valuable than the lack of it, everything needs to be saved and stored.

Everywhere I turn my head, someone is checking their Blackberry, iPhone, or working on their laptop – that email can never arrive fast enough; that document can never open soon enough. The speed of innovation and product development has become geometric as the latencies between the parts of the manufacturing cycle continue to be eliminated. Speed, not haste, is the key difference to a company being first to market or being just another me-too.

The irony is that the storage solution to the cost challenge, the deluge of data and the increasing performance requirements is the same – LESS is more. Less hardware, less management, less complexity and less cost.

SSDs, deduplication, cloud storage, virtualization, and Scale-Out Storage are all about applying that age-old principle to the problem – KISS – keep it simple, stupid.

Why use 100s of fibre-channel drives when a small number of SSDs can achieve the right results for a fraction of the cost? Why deploy huge tape libraries when a large portion of the data is redundant? Why spend valuable resources supporting functions which aren’t core to a business when they can be deployed as a service?

Why continue to deploy traditional storage solutions when there are clearly better alternatives?

Just like at VMworld, an individual ran up to me about 10 minutes after the expo closed yesterday: “I’m tired of my traditional NAS provider. It has its place, but we have 2 PB and it simply doesn’t make sense. I want to find something different.” This man was the leader of a very traditional IT organization which has finally decided to step back and rethink what they were doing – keep it simple and deploy what is best.

The storage landscape will be significantly different 5 years from now – it will be much more simple.

About the Author: Nick Kirsch