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The Business Value of Storage 2017

StorageExperts

 

When it comes to storage today, how do we define “business value”? And how do we actually measure it? @BigStrongGeek Jorge Maestre weighs in—in a way that looks beyond specific vendors and brands. 

Business Value of Storage_blog.jpgTwo years ago I explored the business value of HPE 3PAR StoreServ storage.

Well a lot sure has changed in the last two years. So it’s time to ask the really important question:  How does storage help my business? Over the last couple of years there has been so much noise around <insert latest greatest tech buzz word here> that we’ve lost sight of why storage is important in the first place.

We are NOT going to be specific to HPE here. At least not yet. I want us to look at this from the top down in a way that relates to everyone and not just a vendor or a brand or any of that other nonsense. So let’s get started.

How do we actually define “business value” and then how do we actually measure it?

Merriam-Webster's defines “value” as the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth or usefulness of something.”

Let’s agree then that “business value” should simply be defined as “the usefulness of something as it relates to my business.” 

And I’m sure there are a number of metrics that can be used to quantify how a specific technology or enhancement or even a change in direction adds value to my business. But I think we should focus on a few obvious ones: 

  • Time: Am I doing the same work faster? Am I doing more work in the same amount of time?
  • Strategic: Do I now own an advantage over my competition? Am I set up to drive new business?
  • Customer experience: Have I improved the user experience for my customers? My employees?
  • Risk: Have I decreased my risk? Have I removed risk completely?
  • The bottom line: What’s my financial impact? Am I earning more revenue? Am I lowering expenses? Both?

Guess what happens if your change, technology, enhancement or whatever else you’ve done gives you positive answers to all of those questions? That’s right, you my friend have added some significant value to your business!

What exactly is storage and why do I care?

By now anyone in the world of technology knows what storage is but for those who don’t: At its most basic, storage is a highly performing, highly resilient, consolidated repository for actively used data. And while it has evolved from slow spinning disk, to fast spinning disk, and now to flash, it’s still serving the same purpose.

Now that we’ve covered the definitions of “business value” and storage, it’s time to examine how the two go hand in hand.

Accelerating applications is key

No one buys hardware for the sake of hardware. It’s not an entertainment center or some other technology to be shown off to friends at parties.

The sole point of any hardware investment in IT is to make sure critical business applications run and respond faster and faster while protecting those applications from any downtime. And in 2017 there had better be room for new and emerging apps to thrive or there’s going to be hell to pay. 

That’s what application acceleration is all about. And the thing about acceleration is that it’s not a destination, it’s a scale. Like a racecar it needs to go from 0-to-60 in the fastest time possible, reach speeds of 180 or more and then sustain it for the longest time possible, all while handling shifts and curves.

This is where flash storage comes to play. When it comes to predictable, consistent, and scalable Application acceleration flash arrays are king. That’s why the all-flash array market is over $5 billion today and growing 75% year-over-year.*

Keep IT simple sally

We can thank smart phones for redefining how technology should feel. Before the era of smart phones, technology in the data center was complex and only for those with advanced skills.  That’s all changed and now the only way to have the most efficient infrastructure is to make sure that every single component is not only simple but also works together seamlessly and organically.

Simplicity in storage, and the extensive time savings that go with it, is a necessity today. And modern flash arrays are nothing if not simple—even an advanced flash array like 3PAR is still light years ahead of monoliths like VMAX or HDS F series in terms of simplicity.

But to really maximize your return on investment and truly exploit time savings we must be thinking holistically.  It’s not enough to have a slick interface or to take things out of your system to make it appear simple. Nope. Everything has to be simple. Everything from advanced features to scaling to management to adding capacity to swapping out servers to adding applications to whatever else you can think of. Simple and efficient. 

That’s why composability is so important. When the entire data center—and all of the infrastructure—is flowing seamlessly because of transparent synergy, then you’ve truly reached IT Utopia: Simplicity. Synergy. Harmony. 

I almost feel like chanting now…

Safety first

The performance power of flash storage as made counting IOPs a thing of the past. Latency is still important, as is bandwidth, but IOPs have become a commodity. Another strength of flash arrays is largely underappreciated:  Flash arrays are naturally higher in availability—and in that way they reduce the risk previously associated with their predecessor (spinning disk arrays). 

But that doesn’t make them “risk free.” Not by a longshot. There are other things to consider when trying to make a safe purchase for your business:

  • If the vendor you’re looking at only has 3K to 4K customers and they’re largely concentrated in the U.S. then that system hasn’t been tested. It’s being sold into the product’s sweet spot. So ask yourself: “Is my workload in that sweet spot? And if so, for how much longer?”
  • When it is time to upgrade, am I getting newer technology all around? Am I getting flexibility? Or am I just getting into a subscription service that refurbishes the same thing but at a higher cost every three years?
  • Is the flash array’s ecosystem built on a partner relationship? That could get sketchy in a hurry. Someone call Cisco and ask them how they feel about VCE today, please. You’ll see what I mean.
  • What about the overall health of the company itself? Everyone loves focusing on the company’s revenue, which is great, but what about the losses? If the losses are piling up then something is afoul.

We also must consider investment protection as an important point. Any investment you make should have the flexibility to evolve into next year’s decisions. Because the world changes every single day and predictability and consistency are actually more fluid than we consider. 

A storage investment that isn’t hype from a vendor selling into its “sweet spot” or from a vendor with a healthy balance sheet—and maybe from a vendor who has an ecosystem that synergistically incorporates simplicity into the entire infrastructure is just good business.

Close it up, bring it all together!

Let’s review. What is the business value of storage?

  1. The right flash array will be simple to use, manage, and grow. It will be faster, bigger, and stronger allowing for more work to be done in less time.
  2. The right flash array will scale, have features and be flexible delivering a strategic advantage over my competition.
  3. By virtue of being bigger and better, the right flash array will make employees’ lives easier, allowing them to focus on improving applications and not just responding to them. Customers should see immediate benefit from the applications making them happier and more confident.
  4. The right flash array will be tested to handle numerous complex and mixed workloads. It will be resilient and flexible enough to incorporate newer and even more complex workloads protecting my investment and the business from risk.

Check all those boxes and you will wind up at only one place: The right flash array will fit my budget, lower my overall operating expenses—in some cases dramatically—which will increase revenue allowing the business to grow and expand.

That's what we were looking for and we found it. But now I want to challenge you to think about the “big picture.”

The right storage solution surrounded by the right ecosystem is time saved that yields a nonstop return on Investment. Add an infrastructure around that storage where everything is hot swappable in the most unnoticeable way and you have IT utopia—a world where risk is virtually eliminated.

Also included in that big picture is the cloud and hybrid IT, where some applications are managed in house and others out in the cloud. 

That’s the HPE vision and we’re leading the way. We have the right flash arrays: Nimble storage for customers who need to start fast and strong but with an emphasis on simplicity with a graduation path to 3PAR storage for customers who want to extend simplicity into an array that provides for ultimate flexibility. 

We have the right ecosystem with the HPE Synergy Composable Infrastructure platform. And lastly, we’re leading the way in Hybrid IT. Don’t just take my word for it. Read about it here.

*IDC WW Disk Tracker for Q1 2017

Jorge Maestre.png

 

Meet Around the Storage Block blogger Jorge Maestre, Competitive Strategist, Global Storage, HPE. @BigStrongGeek

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