Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Zakia Bouachraoui

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Feed Post

Why Isn't Storage Getting Cheaper?

Part 4: The Glass Floor

Why isn't storage getting cheaper? Storage capacity keeps growing, but unstructured data grows at least as fast. IT organizations have tried to contain costs, but tiered storage has not worked out that well. Although there are technical limits to the effectiveness of tiered storage, the biggest challenge is a business one: Disk drives are a very small component in the overall cost of storage.

This series of articles attempts to answer the question:

  1. Too Cheap to Manage
  2. Too Much to Manage
  3. Tiered Storage
  4. The Glass Floor
  5. Storage as a Service

The Glass Floor

As I've mentioned in the past, there is a "glass floor" below which storage costs simply cannot drop for technical reasons. This seriously limits the effectiveness of cost savings activities in general and tiered storage concepts in particular!

Hardware Costs

Consider an average enterprise storage array. For about $250,000 you get a rack-sized device with all sorts of software and hardware capabilities, plus about 50 disk drives. If we were just buying "spinning rust," as industry wags often claim, no one would consider buying an enterprise storage array. Instead, enterprise storage companies sell their kit for its value add over plain old disk capacity (JBOD): Networked enterprise storage offers tremendous advantages over JBOD. These advantages are apparently so compelling that businesses everywhere have been ready to spend serious amounts of money for comparatively little disk space.

The disk drives themselves aren't run-of-the-mill consumer items, but they're not all that expensive compared to the total cost of a storage array. Each of those 50 drives probably lists for $2,000, so disk drives make up 40% of the list price of our example storage array. Much ink has been spilled arguing whether enterprise disk drives are worth their list price, which can be 10 times higher than consumer units. But disk drives are not manufactured by enterprise array companies anymore, and they are purchased at steep discounts in massive numbers. Most of that cost is profit to the array vendor, and they are normally willing to sacrifice margin there rather than on their core value-added software features. After negotiation, disk capacity probably makes up less than 10% of the purchase price of a storage solution. The disk drives themselves are simply not a major component of the cost of enterprise storage.

Let us now apply these basic facts. Organizations typically implement tiered storage in one of the following ways:

  1. Extra-array tiering involves the use of multiple independent storage systems. An organization might buy a smaller amount of capacity on expensive high-end arrays and a larger amount on cheaper midrange models.
  2. Intra-array tiering requires a storage array or virtualization controller that supports multiple disk drive types. These often can also move all or some of a virtual drive, or LUN, between these internal tiers of storage

Adding an entirely new type of storage array presents a major challenge for IT. The initial purchase price is high, there is a capacity planning and product selection process to deal with, and administrators have to be trained in managing this new system. Then comes the process of migrating data from the existing tier to this new tier of storage. Most have found that the somewhat lower unit cost for capacity on low-end storage systems is offset by the added overhead involved in buying and managing these arrays. Since the price of a disk drive makes up little of the total cost of a storage solution based on even the least-expensive storage system, extra-array tiering often fails to deliver the expected savings.

Many enterprise storage vendors are also touting the ability of their larger storage systems to support multiple disk types at different price points. This intra-array tiering approach is made more enticing with the promise of automated storage tiering. But the effectiveness of intra-array tiering is limited by the high cost of the storage systems involved. Let us imagine that disk drives made up 40% of the purchase price of such a solution; a 50% savings on 50% of the disks would represent an overall savings of about 10%. And even this cost savings might be eaten up by the additional cache memory, controllers, licenses, and maintenance cost required to support more disks. The automated storage tiering software features often have high additional price tags as well!

In truth, neither extra-array nor intra-array tiered storage delivers much benefit even in the best of circumstances. In typical scenarios, tiered storage often results in no cost savings whatsoever.

Operational Cost

As we have seen, the falling cost of disk drive capacity fails to deliver the savings needed to support the ever-growing volume of data in businesses, since it makes up such a small part of the cost of an enterprise storage system. But storage costs as a component of IT budgets are not falling. In fact, storage costs are escalating relative to other IT disciplines.

The high cost of operating and managing enterprise storage systems tends to soak up any cost savings from less-expensive hardware. More data requires more equipment, more floor space, more electricity and cooling, more engineering, administration, and operational personnel, more backup issues, more compliance concerns, and more management oversight. In short, a given amount of storage requires the same operational expense regardless of the cost of the hardware it sits on.

Operational expense hits mid-sized businesses hardest. The smallest organizations rely on just one or two IT staff, so hardware cost is a major concern. The largest businesses have such a huge footprint of data that the cost of storage gear dwarfs their operational expense. But no matter the size of the business, simple changes to storage hardware infrastructure has failed to deliver any overall IT budget savings.

It is simply not enough to attack the hardware side of the equation with cheaper disk drives. Organizations must dramatically lower their aggregate storage infrastructure costs and the associated operational costs at the same time. The impact that managed storage services can have on this equation is tomorrow's topic for this series!

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Stephen Foskett

Stephen Foskett has provided vendor-independent end user consulting on storage topics for over 10 years. He has been a storage columnist and has authored numerous articles for industry publications. Stephen is a popular presenter at industry events and recently received Microsoft’s MVP award for contributions to the enterprise storage community. As the director of consulting for Nirvanix, Foskett provides strategic consulting to assist Fortune 500 companies in developing strategies for service-based tiered and cloud storage. He holds a bachelor of science in Society/Technology Studies, from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
René Bostic is the Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America. Enjoying her career with IBM during the modern millennial technological era, she is an expert in cloud computing, DevOps and emerging cloud technologies such as Blockchain. Her strengths and core competencies include a proven record of accomplishments in consensus building at all levels to assess, plan, and implement enterprise and cloud computing solutions. René is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and a m...
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...
Digital Transformation: Preparing Cloud & IoT Security for the Age of Artificial Intelligence. As automation and artificial intelligence (AI) power solution development and delivery, many businesses need to build backend cloud capabilities. Well-poised organizations, marketing smart devices with AI and BlockChain capabilities prepare to refine compliance and regulatory capabilities in 2018. Volumes of health, financial, technical and privacy data, along with tightening compliance requirements by...
Bill Schmarzo, author of "Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business" and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science" is responsible for guiding the technology strategy within Hitachi Vantara for IoT and Analytics. Bill brings a balanced business-technology approach that focuses on business outcomes to drive data, analytics and technology decisions that underpin an organization's digital transformation strategy.
"MobiDev is a Ukraine-based software development company. We do mobile development, and we're specialists in that. But we do full stack software development for entrepreneurs, for emerging companies, and for enterprise ventures," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Rodrigo Coutinho is part of OutSystems' founders' team and currently the Head of Product Design. He provides a cross-functional role where he supports Product Management in defining the positioning and direction of the Agile Platform, while at the same time promoting model-based development and new techniques to deliver applications in the cloud.
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation; Alan Williamson, Principal ...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user e...