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Big storage meets cloud in the datacentre 'as-a-service' revolution

About a decade ago, the future looked set to be dominated by cloud storage and the cloud providers.

The location of compute and storage was all set to be off-site – in the cloud – where it was easy to imagine (as in this 2009 article) that service providers would amass great clout, to the detriment of the traditional suppliers of storage hardware. Potential economies of scale made that a view that held water. Logic seemed to dictate that IT should be deliverable as a service, as the new electricity of our age.

But a decade later, the cloud still has its limitations – if not in reach then in capability – and on-premise operations are set to be part of the broader IT architecture for quite some time yet. In fact, what is instead emerging is a datacentre-focused convergence, around service provision and hybrid cloud, and this is something IT decision makers should factor into their planning.

A large part of the trend towards storage as a service – whether from hardware makers or cloud giants – is built on the recognition that the datacentre isn’t going away any time soon, but also that the cloud is now a well-embedded fact of life.

So, how is that convergence manifesting itself? On the one hand, the big five or six storage hardware makers are all moving towards allowing customers to buy their products on an opex storage as a service rather than a capex basis.

Here we have:

  • Dell EMC On Demand
  • NetApp Keystone
  • IBM’s Iaas, Paas and SaaS models
  • HPE, which launched Greenlake in 2018 and says all its products will be available as services by 2022
  • Hitachi’s Staas (storage as a service)
  • Pure storage as a service

Those are the storage as-a-service offerings from the incumbent storage hardware makers. They revolve around the provision of hardware for the datacentre on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Then, from the big three cloud providers we have the following products and services that come as a range of hybrid cloud services that come on a hardware platform, also for use in the customer datacentre:

  • AWS Outposts
  • Google Cloud Platform Anthos
  • Microsoft Azure Stack

At the same time, the incumbent hardware makers also have a range of hybrid cloud platforms built into their products. These include:

  • VMware VCloud on Dell EMC
  • NetApp’s Data Fabric
  • IBM with its Red Hat cloud capabilities

Compute as a service

The key thing offered here is the ability to buy storage and compute as a service.

They address the need for guarantees about security and/or performance that come from staying on-premise. But they are clearly influenced by the cloud operating model and its inherent elasticity, and bring that level of flexibility to the datacentre.

The big benefit is to be able to move to an opex purchasing model, and to break free of hardware refresh cycles.

All IT decision makers should be looking at pay-as-you-go hybrid storage and compute options for the datacentre. It may not suit all use cases, but there are likely to be some to which it is apt.

A proof-of-concept certainly does no harm as preparation for what is likely to be a major plank of the datacentre-cloud nexus for some time.

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