Storage Informer
Storage Informer

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

by on Jul.09, 2010, under Storage

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

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From aspirational to pragmatic:

EMC Unified Storage Is 20% More Efficient.  Guaranteed.

That’s the tag line for the storage efficiency campaign we’ve recently launched in this hotly contested part of the market.

And, from all indications, it appears that it’s working quite well …

The Background

If you haven’t been following this particular drama closely, maybe I should bring you up to date.

This specific part of the storage market — dubbed "unified storage" (one storage platform that supports file and block protocols) is one of the most brutally competitive parts of the storage and larger IT landscape.

Smaller organizations use these storage arrays to run just about everything they’ve got.  Larger organizations use these for non-mission-critical applications and general purpose storage.  And some specific organizations occasionally put up vast amounts to support specific online services.

In this category, it’s hard to differentiate on performance, since — well — for many of the use cases good enough is good enough.  Ditto for topics like availability and replication.  And, even though there’s a ton of great software integration betwee n these arrays and environments like VMware and Microsoft, there’s only so much of that integration stuff you can use.

Which leaves us with the central topic of efficiencywho can use less raw storage capacity to get the job done?  At the end of the day, everyone pays pretty much the same for component level inputs … it’s what you get out of it that matters.

Lots Of New Technology Here

Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of new approaches to drive storage efficiency, and they tend to show up in this segment first.  Things like thin provisioning.  Compression and deduplication.  The use of enterprise flash drives to enable use of more low-cost storage devices, like SATA.  Even spin-down and automigration to even lower-cost archives, whether they be internal to the organization or provided as an external service (e.g. cloud).

So much so, in fact, th at it’s very hard to sort through all the noise and fanfare around who’s more efficient.  And, given the competitiveness of this segment, there’s an awful lot of noise indeed.

So we decided to make it easy for everyone.

The First Round Of Storage Guarantees

About a year or so ago, we all saw the first round of "efficiency guarantees" pop up in the market.  Frankly speaking, I and many others saw them for what they were — basically, a cheap marketing gimmick.

Why?  Although they offered up the appearance of considerable savings (e.g. up to 50% !!!) they had some fundamental flaws.

First, they were usually up against easy compares — to qualify, you had to switch between RAID 1 (mirroring) and parity RAID.  That gets you 40%+ just there.  Second, to get these results, frequently you had to use  more exotic configurations that required turning off certain useful features, like snap reserves. 

Yuck.

Second, when you went looking for details, there were all sorts of useful workloads excluded, like databases, or data objects that were already compressed. 

More yuck.

Finally, there were multiple pages of terms and conditions, boatloads of exclusions and caveats, and a registration and acceptance process involved.  All of the work to get any potential value had to be done by the customer. 

Maximum yuck.

Some of us thought we could do better, so we did.

A Better Guarantee?

EMC, in the normal course of our business, purchases and tests just about every decently competitive storage array in the marketplace.  We put them in the lab, and run them through their paces.

Sometimes, it’s for interoperability and compatibility purposes.  A lot of the EMC portfolio has to work well with storage arrays we don’t make.  Other times, it’s to find out what’s really behind all the noisy claims that people make — we really want to know for ourselves.

And, in the course of doing all this, we were continually struck by one observation — many of these competitive storage devices weren’t all that efficient at converting raw storage capacity to usable capacity in a predictable and usable manner.

So we decided to do something about it …

The EMC Unified Storage Guarantee

We tried to make this as simple as possible.

Configure an EMC unified storage platform using our tools and standardized best practices.

Configure the other guy’s unified storage platform using their tools and standardized best practices, or use ours if you don’t have access to theirs.

Compare the raw capacities — if EMC doesn’t do the job with at least 20% less raw capacity, we’ll make up the difference.

No disclaimers, caveats, exceptions, legalese, registration processes, etc. 

Simply put — no BS.

In addition to the program web page, there are a couple of cool promotional videos we’ve done (here and here), as well as Christopher Kusek’s blog (@cxi) where he’s having way too much fun with all of this. The backstory here is also fun: Chris worked for one of our competitors in this space for many years before recently joining EMC.  There’s also a nice Facebook fan page if you’re so inclined.

You’ll see more of t his program in the future for one simple reason: it’s working.

How This Plays Out

Customers and partners of all sizes and shapes are taking us up on this offer. 

It might be a modest 10TB filer through a partner, it might be a multi-petabyte transaction as a direct account — or anything in between.  Again, as I said above, no exceptions and no BS.

The prospect of saving, say 200TB on a petabyte-sized config definitely gets a bit of attention :-)

Customers are putting our configs up against the other guys, and they’re discovering what we’ve known all along — the other guys are pretty inefficient when it comes to converting raw capacity to usable stuff.

Most times, these people are seeing at least a 20% difference, maybe more.  To be fair, there are a few exceptions where we came in a bit under the 20% mark, and EMC has quickly made good with more free capa city with no fuss whatsoever.

Are these customers using the 20% savings to spend less on storage?  No.

Generally speaking, they’re using the savings to get an additional 20% of capacity from EMC.

Think about it: 20% more for your money from EMC.

And that’s a deal that many people are finding just too tempting to pass up.

What Lies Ahead?

As far as I can see, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t make this program a permanent fixture of our competitive offerings going forward.

The underlying basis for our storage efficiencies are architectural, and hard for our competitors to replicate.  The program isn’t really costing us anything, since in most cases the 20% savings is already there, or more. 

This could go on for a very long time indeed — there’s no reason to stop.

So, I have to ask — what are *you* going to do with your extra 20%?

:-)

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