ARN Storage Roundtable: 'Ensuring business continuity and building opportunities'

Who says storage can’t be sexy?
From left: Allan Swann (ARN), Allan King (Infront Systems), James Sillence (EMC), Andrew Thomas (Thomas Duryea), Stefan Gillard (, Rodney Gedda (Telsyte),
Anthony Davis (Nexenta), Jennifer O’Brien (ARN), Richard Denyer (Fusion Systems), Matthew Swinbourne (NetApp), Phil Lancaster (Bluechip Infotech)

From left: Allan Swann (ARN), Allan King (Infront Systems), James Sillence (EMC), Andrew Thomas (Thomas Duryea), Stefan Gillard (, Rodney Gedda (Telsyte),
Anthony Davis (Nexenta), Jennifer O’Brien (ARN), Richard Denyer (Fusion Systems), Matthew Swinbourne (NetApp), Phil Lancaster (Bluechip Infotech)

Who says storage can’t be sexy? It’s fast-paced, seeing revolutionary technological change, players are striving to innovate and meet customer’s ever-growing demands for escalating data, and it is adapting to the impact of the sexy business game-changers like Cloud computing and Big Data.

ARN's Storage Roundtable: Ensuring business continuity and building opportunities was sponsored by Bluechip Infotech, EMC and Fusion Systems. The full slideshow of the event can be seen here.

Certainly, today’s Cloud, Big Data, and always-on high-performance work environments means that bad storage decisions can cost business opportunities – and therefore it’s imperative to embrace a good storage strategy. Forty per cent of businesses who encounter a disaster and lose access to their data for more than 24 hours go out of business completely, and the average global cost of downtime is $300,000 per hour.

With the increased pressure on the business to maintain and manage its escalating data, storage is no longer considered boring (or even unsexy), and now more than ever the storage market is ripe with opportunity.

With that in mind, a number of industry experts sat down to discuss the changes in the storage landscape, highlight the growing market opportunities and challenges faced by storage providers and customers, and discuss the evolving customer relationship with service providers.


There are more changes than ever before in the storage arena. Bluechip Infotech director, Phil Lancaster, couldn’t agree more, saying at this time in history, more than any other, there are so many changes in storage – and the fact partners are embracing a myriad of vendor solutions in their portfolio is changing the customer landscape.

“In as little as the last 12 to 18 months it has become suddenly normal for a partner that you’ve talked to who might have only ever sold EMC or NetApp, for example, to have three or four storage vendors in their portfolio,” he said.

EMC senior presales manager, James Sillence, said the growing array of storage technology options is good for the customer.

“Every technology, every architecture tends to have a superpower, but it also tends to have a kryptonite. So there’s this concept that customers need choice. Fundamentally, one architecture doesn’t suit every opportunity; it doesn’t suit every requirement and actually the customer has to be able to choose what architecture from vendor N and vendor E is going to suit their particular requirements,” Sillence said.

“It’s about giving the customer the choice so they can put their workloads on a platform which is going to meet their economic needs, their compliance needs, their scalability needs and their dollar per gig needs. It is about customer choice.”

Telsyte senior analyst, Rodney Gedda, agreed that change is upon us, explaining how choice in terms of platforms and delivery models has fuelled the storage market momentum – which means resellers need to transition to a services-led play with a focus on annuity revenue in order to embrace the change.

“We’ve got a situation where we have a growing amount of choice in how we procure our storage. We can be pure Cloud through a managed service, or it could be an on premise that’s delivered as a managed service in terms of the cost per service storage unit like a leasing arrangement. Tomorrow’s reseller needs to balance the project work and the system integration work that they’re use to (and built the business on) with a managed services approach and annuity revenue model,” he said.

Certainly, complexity and choice inspires market opportunities, and Gedda said one of the biggest hot spots at the moment is hybrid Cloud. “The focus can be on multiple delivery models, which forms the hybrid Cloud. It’s not just a case of on premise or Cloud, but it’s a combination of Cloud [Software-as-a-Service), managed services and on premise that a company is engaged with.”

NetApp technical manager ANZ, Matthew Swinbourne, said hybrid Clouds will become the dominant vision for enterprise IT – a key trend to sweep the storage market.

He said the tension within IT about moving to the Cloud will resolve itself as organisations recognize that a hybrid Cloud model is needed to serve their application portfolios. CIOs will sort their portfolio into: applications that require complete IT control (using on-premise private Clouds); applications that can be shared with a third party (using enterprise public Clouds); applications with highly variable workloads (using hyper scale public Clouds); and applications that can be addressed with Software-as-a-Service offerings.

Swinbourne said IT will act as the broker across the various Cloud options, and there will be an increasing need to move application data and maintain consistent storage service levels across the different Clouds.

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Not only are there a myriad of business trends and technology changes, but the way partners and service providers interact with client has undergone a facelift – and is still evolving. Infront Systems managing director, Allan King, said the customer conversation is changing – and Cloud is a key point of discussion in the storage arena.

“The conversation I have with customers is trying to understand what Cloud is and what it actually represents. Customers are very excited about software defined networking, hyper scale architectures, they’re all about scale out commodities, architectures and the discussions revolve around that. But they’re really third platform discussions.”

Instead, he said what needs to happen is a conversation that talks about either ‘pets’ or ‘cattle’ – and moving from a ‘servers as pets world’ to a ‘servers as cattle world,’ which is critical to success in Cloud and delivering new value to the enterprise.

“I talk about ‘pets’ and ‘cattle’. The pet conversation is very much what we deal with today. We name our servers our pets; if they get sick, we nurse it back to health. And the reason we do that is because the application workloads we’re running rely on a very highly resilient, a very robust infrastructure. But when cattle get ill, you get another one, or shoot it!” King said.

“But the only way in which we can adopt the cattle architecture is by re-architecting the application such that the resiliency exists within that. So we need to have conversations with customers and frame it that way.”

Indeed, industry experts agree that future application architectures should use cattle, but pets with strong configuration management are viable and still needed. King said there’s still confusion, particularly around the storage platform.

‘We’re confused as an industry about what actually is the right fi t for the right platform at the right time – and I believe it’s a hybrid world. We need to slowly move to a third platform architecture as we re-architect our applications. But that’s going to take time. We cannot ignore the pets discussion; that we have a SLA and we have a duty of care to our organisation that we just cannot lift and shift. So they’re the two diametrically opposed conversations we’re having, but it’s starting to resonate,” he said, adding customers need to look at Cloud where it makes sense.

With disruptive times, comes massive change, agreed NetApp’s Swinbourne. He said the partner’s conversation no longer happens solely with the IT department. The new power centre is the C-level executive and not just the CIO, but the CMO, and often times the IT department is a roadblock when talking about the storage platform and overall IT infrastructure.

“The IT department, in some businesses, are the people holding the business back saying, ‘you can’t to do this’ and forcing a lot of that public hyper scale of Cloud adoption out of frustration and cultural problems inside customer organisations. Time and time again I see customers use hyper scalers to solve what essentially is a cultural problem in their business.”

Partners need to ask the customer where the information is living.

“You need to think about how you’re going to look back on seven years of records. You need to think about cost control – and that’s the changing role of the reseller. It is shifting who we engage with inside businesses and how we engage with businesses. If we’re talking to IT and we don’t have any other relationships, we’re talking to the wrong people.”

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EMC’s Sillence said with the trends including Cloud, Big Data, and BYOD reshaping the industry, there’s enormous opportunity for channel partners.

“With massive disruption, which is going on in our industry right now, comes massive opportunity.”

Customers don’t buy storage and then consider what workloads they are going to deploy – instead they buy a storage platform to meet the needs of their application workloads.

“The criteria for selecting a given technology can largely be simplified into two key ‘continuums.’ One has performance at one end and capacity at the other. This generally leads to a discussion around $/IO versus $/GB. The other continuum relates to the service level required, with continuous availability at one end and traditional backup and archive at the other. Somewhere in between those two extremes you would have traditional Snap technology and continuous data protection. Once an application has been plotted on those two axes, it is much easier to map the requirements to a specific technology and can enable an informed discussion about the suitability of on premise or off premise provisioning,” he said.

“Where our channel partners have a tremendous opportunity in the storage space is to facilitate this workload centric conversation with customers. Help them to understand the characteristics of their application and make an appropriate choice about the storage technology that best suits their need. The reality is that off-premise is not always a good solution and neither is a “one-size-fi ts-all” storage platform. A best-of-breed approach, matched to specifi c objectives, will always be a better technology choice. Our channel partners are really well placed to elevate the discussion beyond the storage platform and take an application workload centric view of the customer’s landscape.”

Additionally, he said partners need to get up-close-and-personal with customers and position this skill as a key differentiator.

“The resellers that are going to make a difference in our industry are the ones who are getting really, really close to their customers to understand what their customers need. Customers are faced with this massive amount of disruption and they don’t quite know how to deal with it; they don’t quite know what technologies they need, what Cloud platforms they need and it’s a real bit of a mess for them and they’ve got to try and pull this thing together. That’s one area where our resellers can really have an impact in our industry.”

Certainly, there’s a golden opportunity (and responsibility) for partners to educate customers about an appropriate storage strategy and how and when a Cloud approach makes sense, added Infront Systems’ King. He said there is a tendency to jump into the game without full knowledge, unaware of the repercussions.

“In Australia, customers are quite willing to just launch into a Cloud conversation without really understanding the risks or having any backstop when it comes to expertise in the market.”

More importantly, the partner needs to take a level headed and responsible approach – and help customers sift through the hype.

“Fail to plan/plan to fail. It’s a classic scenario, but so many people are just caught up in the hype. And I love Cloud. I think Cloud has enormous potential where it has enormous potential, same as I love all fl ash array where all fl ash array makes sense. And I love hyper – I don’t care what the technology is as long is it’s the right fit. But we are caught up in this model of ‘just because it’s new, it’s got to be better.’”

Complicating matters is the lack of storage skills at the partner level, added Fusion Systems (part of Distribution Central), technical manager, ANZ, Richard Denyer.

“The traditional ‘pet’ that we’ve been talking about was always designed to scale upwards. To make it go faster you’ve made the box bigger. You put more memory in it. You put more storage behind it. The thing with all hyper scale systems is they’re all designed to scale horizontally. So it’s very diffi cult for someone just to take an application and put it in the Cloud,” Denyer said.

“This is where most resellers don’t have the skills because most of those applications are designed by either large consulting organisations or an application developer and typically that’s not the role of the reseller. The reseller doesn’t actually have the skills to do that. So what ends up happening is people put workloads in the Cloud, they move their ‘pets’ to the Cloud and then all of a sudden they get this bill shock because hyper scalers are all designed to be horizontal scale. When you’re not using it, you turn it off. If you leave something running in the Cloud 24/7, you’re not going to get any economies of scale.”

Skills remain a top challenge, but Thomas Duryea Consulting CEO, Andrew Thomas, said partners can fi nd success by providing clients with a business discussion (and deliver on outcomes) in addition to the technology conversation. He has re-engineered his business to help take customers on the Cloud journey.

“Help them understand their workloads now and the options they’ve got. We show them there are many new ways to analyse workloads and requirements. Often that isn’t just the technology level - we’ve also built out a consultant advisory practice that allows us to move on behalf of IT outside of IT so that we’re talking to a business about the true business requirements. IT enjoys that because it gives them a mechanism to marry what they’re doing to the business.”

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Enterprises will increase their adoption of flash technology as the leading storage companies validate this trend. NetApp’s Swinbourne said the battle between mainstream players and bleeding-edge all-fl ash vendors will be won by those that best enable customers to deploy the right levels of performance, reliability and scalability for their specifi c needs and workloads., chief mechanic, CEO, Stefan Gillard, agreed the obsession with fl ash technology is shaking up the market.

“We are seeing commoditisation of storage and the advent of all flash arrays or hybrid converged appliances like a Nutanix that has the compute and the storage and the network all in the same appliance and software defined storage and network. Our customers now have huge opportunities and huge choices,” Gillard said.

“Consumers in the last three years have more selection around all storage, fl ash, version IO, hybrid, trays from even the big manufactures. They’ve got consumer choice for one of the first times. Five years ago or 10 years ago, if you were Telstra there were probably two vendors that you talked to about your storage needs. Now you’ve actually got more than two handfuls of people you can potentially go to.”

InFront Systems’ King said many customers with a set budget settle on flash, but still expect high performance.

“It’s the emergence of good enough reasoning. We’ve got to be aware of the good enough discussions. Now what is good enough? Well good enough sometimes is in the eye of the beholder, not the educator trying to convince you that it could burn or fail in the endeavor. You don’t want to ever see a customer fail, but they can make rash decisions based on budget. We’re walking away from a lot of jobs.”

Additionally, the popularity of flash and ‘good enough’ computing is fuelling the birth of the generalist in the partner community, he added.

“We’re seeing our industry devolve into a bunch of generalists. They don’t have the specialists. We’ve always tried to advocate ourselves as a specialist company. I believe customers know 80 per cent of everything before you even walk in the door. And what you’re trying to do now is understand and guide. They’re not sure of the flavour or the colour. The big boys are generalists these days and they laugh at the deep integration capabilities of the specialist organisation,” King said.

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Telsyte senior analyst, Rodney Gedda, said hybrid Cloud is a top trend to affect the storage arena. In a Telsyte Australian Infrastructure and Cloud Computing Market Study, storage rated the top workable area of the infrastructure (61 per cent) to develop a hybrid Cloud. It was followed by servers (40 per cent); applications (37 per cent); and disaster recovery (31 per cent).

“Storage is one area where customers can integrate more easily then perhaps an application or a full disaster recovery [DR] environment so that’s why businesses think that’s the most workable area,” Gedda said.

Touching on the evolution of storage, he said tomorrow’s reseller should: balance project and managed services [annuity revenue]; focus on multiple delivery models [hybrid Cloud]; skill up for software-defined future; add value to equipment and as-a-service (for example, disaster recovery); and provide business outcomes. Gedda said a company’s Cloud journey typically involves a hybrid model.

“Cloud is one delivery model – it’s being procured in parallel with a lot of on premise investments, as well as a lot of managed service investments. The future for a delivery model across the enterprise is going to be one of hybrid solutions. We’re already seeing in the Cloud space that there is an average of three providers for infrastructure as a service. The market is definitely branching out and testing the waters amongst a number of providers,” he said.

“That mix is leading to an environment where the CIO and the lines of business are going to have to have more of an understanding and more control over how they manage information intelligence.”

Additionally, many organisations are adopting Big Data software and applications, the study revealed.

“Forty two per cent of the enterprises are investigating the need for Big Data within their organisation. A lot of the people I see talk about a business case. They talk about cost. They see the cost of Big Data as one of the barriers to entry. But once they’ve spoken to the board, spoken to lines of business about a business case for Big Data, that barrier to entry can come down significantly if you can justify the investment. There may be Cloud solutions that can help reduce the barrier to entry – there may be package solutions on premise that can help reduce the barrier to entry.”

“With regard to Big Data and analytics, some of the emerging technologies around storage are designed to cope with high volumes and high transactional data inputs.

At the end of the day, it’s about business intelligence and business decision making - not just about collecting hundreds of millions or even billions of data points. If you look at the penetration of Big Data use in Australia it’s about 25 per cent of organisations above 20 employees where you have some Big Data practice. That includes legacy data processing,” he said.

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Nexenta APAC vice-president and general manager, Anthony Davis, said a hot button for 2015 will continue to be software defined storage. He said customers want Cloud economics, but on premise comfort, which is a key reason why many are embracing the software-defined infrastructure.

“Software defined infrastructure is all about commoditising the hardware and dramatically reducing costs in the process,” Davis said.

“The data set that’s growing the fastest is the unstructured data set: tier two and tier three data. We make a very bold statement to every customer and partner that we speak to and that is, ‘if you’ve got customers or you are a customer and you’re using tier one storage for tier two and tier three data, you’re literally getting millions of dollars and you’re sticking it in the toilet.”

Telsyte’s Gedda also looks to software defined storage as a growing market opportunity.

“I’m excited about software-defined storage, software-defined networking, although they’re quite disruptive technologies. We now have more ability to take control of the software and customise it and manage it the way we need for our business and improve our operations.”

Object storage is also considered worth a partner’s time. Also known as object-based storage, it is a storage architecture that manages data as objects. Other storage architectures, like file systems, manage data as a fi le hierarchy. Block storage manages data as blocks within sectors and tracks.

Infront Systems’ King said object storage is popular because Cloud computing is based on it.

“The reason object is probably so popular in Cloud is because it has got the principles of location independence. It allows you to scale without actually being constrained within a file system or knowing the exact location. It’s very easy to move around a couple of billion objects,” he said.

“You can scale and you can turn things off and shoot the cattle all you like, but it will ultimately exist somewhere and you don’t need to know.”