Free storage features, Storage Soup blog by Randy Kerns

By Randy Kerns, Wednesday, May 11th 2011

Analyst Blogs

For years, storage systems have evolved with the addition of high value features. The features have become differentiating characteristics between the storage systems in many cases.

They’ve also become in many cases requirements for any sophisticated storage array.

These include:
snapshot point-in-time copies,
remote replication with synchronous and asynchronous transfers and support for consistency groups,
thin provisioning,
data compression,
tiering across multiple storage device types,
• caching with multiple levels,
• cloning of volumes,
• And a number of others not as prevalent across different storage systems.

Most of these features have traditionally been extra cost items in storage systems. The costs are normally additional licensing charges, either per storage system or capacity-based. The vendor justifies the extra charges because of the effort to develop the feature and the additional costs incurred for the support. With this method, the customer does not pay for unused features.

However, there is a change underway for storage vendors to include some of these features in the base product as part of the base price. This is being done as a competitive issue. When buying features a la carte, customers often feel charges are just being piled on. The additional charges can raise the price significantly, and it is frustrating to customers. Vendors who include the features in the base price argue that they deliver more value that way and the single price has become a differentiator for them.

Interestingly, I have run into customers who have asked if they could get a price break if they didn’t use one of the included features. I attribute this to the conditioning that they have to pay extra for features. I heard a salesman respond that a customer who buys a car wouldn’t expect to pay less if that person didn’t intend to use the back seat. These features are just included in the base product now.

Whether this becomes the standard for storage systems is not clear but certainly that is the direction vendors are heading today. There are still high-value features that are extra charge but there are already a number of capabilities of the system included that were once add-on features. Over time, the competitive pressures will probably continue to drive more features to the base product. While this may be good for the IT customer, it cuts into a vendor’s profitability. But, it is probably inevitable. We spend time evaluating the features of the different storage systems and write about them at the Evaluator Group web site.

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