Changing Storage Vendors – What is Important, Part 1

By Randy Kerns, Tuesday, September 6th 2022

Analyst Blogs

This is Part 1 of this blog series. Read Part 2 here

Changing storage vendors is a decision that is not taken without careful consideration by IT professionals.  There are a number issues when changing vendors: operational changes required, different business relationships, transitions for data and workloads, etc. These changes introduce risk and additional effort from IT – to the point that changing vendors is a project.  

This series of blogs will explain some of the considerations that must be made and the implications.  The basis for this is working with many different organizations that have made strategic decisions regarding their on-premises storage systems for IT infrastructure.   

When to Change Vendors and Why Change

There are only a few reasons for changing vendors and storage systems and, depending on the IT individuals involved, they have varying levels of importance. 

Unhappiness with the Vendor

There may be other pretexts for switching storage vendors, but being unhappy with a vendor is a fundamental reason for many that leads to making a change.  The “vendor” in this case is usually more from local sales and support than with a vendor overall – it is the local team as representative of the vendor that is of concern.  The unhappiness usually has to do with support: investigating and resolving issues, repair and replacement as needed, and billing practices are usually cited.  The timeliness of responding to an issue or inquiry is the main irritant.  There is no acceptable excuse for not having an immediate response.  Resolving the issue – whether an update, repair, or replacement is involved is another timeliness issue.  How long did it take? How long did it take to get another level of support involved?  How many times to how many different people were required to explain the issue?  And, a call tree with a number response to even get attention is enough of a reason to look for a storage system from a different vendor.  

In a few cases, specific individuals may create an atmosphere that causes the unhappiness but this is not the usual case.  It is the way the vendor, as represented by the local team, conducts their business.  Once a situation happens that creates unhappiness, it can rarely be repaired.  Most likely, a change of storage vendor may be a delayed event; the memory of the issues factor into subsequent reasons for change.

End of Maintenance/Service Contract for Storage System

Historically, storage systems have a warranty period and customers get a support contract when they purchase a system.  When the support contract is up, renewal of support is critical for an organization – keeping data accessible is their main responsibility.  Unfortunately, renewal of the contract is usually expensive.  For a vendor, support of a system that is ‘older’ does cost more for a variety of reasons.  It does seem that the customer situation of having a system in use and needing support is being exploited.  This is a major decision point for IT regarding replacing the storage system.  The replacement may be a new generation of the same system, a new but different system from the same vendor, or a change of vendors with a different storage system.  This is where other considerations regarding support and business practices also weigh heavily.  

The relatively recent approaches for continuous updates (originally termed Evergreen by Pure Storage) if a support contract is in place have changed the thought process for IT in the maintenance support area.  The advantages of offsetting a potentially higher support contract cost as operational expense with an update of the storage system/technology on a regular basis rather than a periodic replacement with capital expenditure is attractive for many.  The trade-offs are the selection of which vendor and systems and the different programs offered.  This does tend to influence the decision regarding staying with the incumbent vendor or switching to a different system and vendor.  The ongoing updates make it much more likely to stay with the current vendor. 

End of Support / End of Life for Storage System

As business conditions and strategies change for vendors, some storage systems are discontinued or new development is ended.  Support will continue for a defined amount of time but most vendors will announce an end of sale for the system and a few years later the end of support date. This is a business decision for the vendor in reducing the research and development investment – usually when the vendor has more than one product that can meet most requirements. 

There are a very small number of vendors that do not announce that they are ending new development of a storage system and continue to offer it.  These systems have no advances and the support may suffer without having a development team available. 

For IT, any storage system that does not have a future should be in near term plans for replacement.  There may be another system available from the same vendor that might provide advantages:  financial considerations for ending the development or support, continuing what has been a good relationship with the vendor and local team, and possibly some commonality in operations.  These all must be examined and judged.  The vendors that stop development but still offer the product without a future should be viewed skeptically.  They likely have not been forthright with describing the situation and this alone may be enough motivation to change vendors along with the change of the storage system.  

This installment highlights the most likely reasons to change storage solutions and vendors. The next part will discuss evaluation required when selecting a vendor – either new or the incumbent. 

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