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Don’t Let Your Storage Array Control You

IT Dog getting down and dirty today because that’s what it is going to take to deal with the dirty world of “vendor lock-in.”  There is really no way to dress this up and make it smell nice because it just stinks and although I would roll in something this nasty down at the dog park, I wouldn’t want you to have to live with the smell.

I read an excellent article by Chris Mellor at The Register discussing the need to develop a standard for the server flash-storage array interface and it really got me thinking about the vendor lock in issue.

What is EMC up to with Project Lightning?”
We all are kind of waiting to find that out now aren’t we?  EMC announced Project Lightning as their foray into the server side flash business, putting it sites on the nice people at FusionI/O, STEC and others.  I am wagging my tail to see EMC recognizing the benefits of SSD in the server.  It is a great solution and I am sure the other big dogs will fall in line with their own offerings.  The thing that is making me howl here is the solution is, of course, optimized for EMC and will not play well with the system you may already own.  Good for EMC, not so good for you.  Just another way to lock you into the EMC way of life, the key term here being “lock in”.

“Is NetApp Flash Cache any different?”
This is another example to talk about.  Flash Cache is cool, has a great name and will improve your system performance, IF you happen to want to be locked into NetApps FAS or V-series storage systems.  You want something else, tough luck.  Can’t use Flash Cache.  Fortunately there are alternatives but you get the idea.  Vendors like making products to improve performance of their own products that have performance issues.  But they also like making sure you still love only them by keeping you locked into their solutions.

“So, Dog, why all the “my way or the highway” vendor mentality?”
While I like driving down the proverbial “highway” with my head out the truck window like every other dog, going it alone can be hard so many times we take the “my way” route and just live with the vendor lock-in.  Why is the market like this? Well, one answer is lack of standardization and even when there are standards in place some products don’t always work that well with others (can you say “interoperability issues”?).  When markets are evolving based on customer demands and vendors are running as fast as they can to meet those demands, the idea of standardization takes a back seat to the “design/build/deliver” mentality.  The vendor may think “so what if the customer gets locked into our solution….they are the one demanding the new product as fast as I can develop it.”  And of course the vendor sales guy is thinking “excellent, got this customer locked up for a few more years.”

In summary, I agree with Chris Mellor in saying that  the long run it would benefit everyone if a standard could be developed to define something as basic as the interface between PCIe flash cards and primary storage systems.  Not holding my breath here waiting for that….just put it on my wish list.

No Locks for You
Let me know how vendor lock-in has affected your plans to buy more storage hardware or software.

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More Stories By Peter Velikin

Peter Velikin has 12 years of experience creating new markets and commercializing products in multiple high tech industries. Prior to VeloBit, he was VP Marketing at Zmags, a SaaS-based digital content platform for e-commerce and mobile devices, where he managed all aspects of marketing, product management, and business development. Prior to that, Peter was Director of Product and Market Strategy at PTC, responsible for PTC’s publishing, content management, and services solutions. Prior to PTC, Peter was at EMC Corporation, where he held roles in product management, business development, and engineering program management.

Peter has an MS in Electrical Engineering from Boston University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.