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Is Storage Truly on the Road to Commoditization?

Created: 30 Sep 2012 • Updated: 11 Jun 2014
DougMatthews's picture
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As I've been meeting with customers over the last four or five years we've often discussed an assumed trend that storage already is or is rapidly becoming commoditized.   I have readily accepted and in fact have often and actively helped perpetuate the conversation in my sessions.  I haven't stopped and thought much about until this afternoon when I was meeting with a CIO who had the audacity to suggest that multi-pathing was a commodity and he shouldn't be paying for DMP.  I mean COME ON, name another multi-pathing solution with as many differentiators (performance, manageability, reporting, etc) over traditional "free" products.  Those who know me are probably already getting a visual of how the rest of that meeting went, but let's just say after about 30 minutes that account team is getting their renewal and the customer is planning to move many more servers to DMP...  That conversation prompted me to consider all the customers I've recently spoken with who are still buying very expensive storage arrays. 

To start, I began to look for a good definition of commoditization.  That turned out to be more difficult than I originally imagined! So to paraphrase what I was able to find - Commoditization is effectively when the consumer no longer recognizes the good or service as being significantly differentiated by anything other than cost or other trivial factors.

So if storage has become or is becoming a commodity then are these people willing to pay more during these tough economic times simply due to brand awareness or momentum?  Perhaps the vendor's array color scheme matches their server racks a little better.....   Of course not.  For these enterprises it is about reducing cost-performance ratio's, improving their infrastructure agility, and better serving their business needs.  There is a still fairly distinct differentiation based on availability, performance, and features that drives their purchase decision.   Further the emergence of Solid State Storage and business analytic advancements (aka big data initiatives) are likely to continue to drive performance and feature diversity for the next several years at least. 

Perhaps that's the problem.  When people talk to me about "storage is becoming commoditized" are they simply referring to a price per Gig that they are spending to get their capacity?  Granted array internal components such as internal drive capacity has been a commodity for several years, but perhaps with SSD even that changes and even capacity is no longer commodity?  Regardless, I think it is time for us to stop talking about and fretting over the eventual commoditization of Storage, and focus instead on using our storage spend to meet and improve the company's core business success metrics.

What do you think?