Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guarantees and Lowest Common Denominator

In the last few days, 3PAR, Pillar, and HDS joined NetApp as vendors offering guarantees around storage efficiencies.  Chuck Hollis (EMC) posted why he feels that EMC (not including VMware, natch) won't offer blanket guarantees like this in the near future.  The comments showed that a lot of people were passionate about the topic, especially vendors.  It also showed that people who post on Chuck's blog apparently like to talk like press releases.

Honestly, I find this entire topic unnecessary and a little boring.  I don't think that guarantees necessarily mean that the vendor is selling snake oil, nor do I think that not having a guarantee shows the vendor is hiding something.  I'm still not sure how having an optional guarantee available for customers could ever be seen as being a "negative."

In a previous post, I discussed various ways to evaluate the cost of storage... Cost / GB and Cost IOP.  Certain vendors (NetApp, 3PAR, etc) rely on software functionality such as primary storage deduplication and thin provisioning for competitive advantages.  These features allow them to propose fewer disks/capacity to meet a customer's IOP or GB requirements.  The guarantees show is that the vendor will stand behind these numbers.

If a customer is allowing a vendor to propose fewer spindles due to "secret sauce software," then I'd expect those terms to be written into the contract regardless of whether or not the vendor offers a guarantee.  Other than marketing, I don't see a ton of value that the guarantees provide that a decent purchasing contract wouldn't.  Yes, my opinions have shifted a little bit since the original NetApp guarantee... it is still a great marketing instrument, but outside of that, not a ton of actual value.

Various other notes from the comments...
"Since the SSD on V-max thru gateway CIFS debacle^W benchmark, it's not even apparent that a workaday NAS solution from EMC can crawl north of 45% storage efficiencies"
You shouldn't claim that SPC benchmarks have any validity and then bash EMC's SPECFS entry.  Not many of the SPC entries have any more real-world relevance than EMC's entry here.
"Customers don’t want to have to bring in a team of neurologists to build a storage and data protection solution. NetApp offers simplicity and a great efficiency story."
 Last time I checked, NetApp's guarantee required neurologists^W professional services.
 "If a vendor is getting into my environment by selling some executive a useless empty guarantee we've started on the wrong foot from square one."
Hate to say it, the problem here really isn't the vendor with the guarantee... it's upper management not listening to their people.
"When I'm buying a car (infrequently, thank goodness) I am interested in the warranties and guarantees; it's a seller's mark of confidence in his product."
Which is why everyone buys Hyundai right now.  Or, in the storage realm, Xiotech.

NetApp has a great solution, as does 3PAR, HDS, and EMC.  Conversations like this really doesn't help anyone involved, least of all the customers.  I'd much rather see debates around various approaches to solving real world problems than arguments like this which seem to be "who has the biggest contract."


Anonymous said...

Nice Blog post!! While I love the reference to EVERYONE buying a Xiotech Emprise solution, i think I prefer a different car manufacture then Hyundai :)


techmute said...

I was just referring to the warranty... :-D

Mike S. said...

Nice blog but just one point of clarification re: 3PAR, it's ability to offer fewer spindles to meet IOPS requirements really has nothing to do with Thin Provisioning or any other value added software. It's based on the underlying architecture which is not bound by disk based RAID groups but instead stripes all volumes widely by default regardless of RAID characteristics.