Not long ago, enterprise IT had a single direct path when considering storage options. It identified the best storage vendor for its needs, rolled in the hardware in a data center and let things run. It was simple and straightforward, and it was enough.
Until, of course, it wasn’t.
As new technologies and practices have emerged, many managers have begun to realize that traditional storage methods are no longer adequate. The advent of hybrid cloud, hyperconverged architectures and advanced DevOps tools, many of which didn’t even exist a few years ago, introduce requirements that traditional storage hardware wasn’t designed to handle.
Furthermore, these new ways of doing things have blurred the lines that once existed between storage, networking and compute resources. They have created an intertwined environment where each resource depends heavily on the other. In other words, we’ve moved away from islands of IT to a continent of consolidation.
Many IT managers we speak to find that thinking about storage in a vacuum is no longer an effective strategy and that it’s more beneficial to seek relationships with vendors that offer a range of IT services and solutions. Here are five areas where choosing a vendor with a large breadth of solutions can have a more direct and positive impact than working with a point-play storage vendor.
A Real Hybrid Cloud
Many companies now use hybrid cloud models to balance on-premises and public-cloud workloads. For those organizations, working with a storage vendor that simply pays lip service to hybrid clouds or has only a surface-level understanding of their benefits and how they can be used and deployed won’t cut it. That’s like covering a bullet wound with a Band-Aid.
General IT vendors with a wider bench of solutions tend to have a more varied amount of consulting expertise and engineering resources. Their skills and knowledge can be extraordinarily valuable in helping companies achieve all of their hybrid-cloud objectives, including, but not strictly relegated to, data storage. Enterprises are attracted to the hybrid cloud partly owing to the promise of application portability. General IT vendors may be more suited to supporting open standards and nonproprietary data formats to enable workload movement to and between clouds.
Companies seeking better integration among their IT environments would do well to consider solution providers that can satisfy many different needs of a modern enterprise. They should seek partners that provide storage underpinnings to directly support and feed into the other areas of IT that are critical to their businesses.
One side effect of the advent of DevOps is that enterprises have begun managing their infrastructures programmatically, much as they do applications. They want simplicity and the ability to automate all of the different components and processes that comprise their complex IT infrastructures. To achieve this goal, they should also look at IT vendors that can integrate management of their storage solutions with popular APIs (such as Amazon’s S3).
An Edge for Innovation
The telecommunications industry is a great example of a sector that lives off of innovation across IT disciplines. Many communications-service providers are using infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) private clouds to swiftly deploy and scale their IT infrastructures, but they’re also using software-defined storage (SDS) to scale storage requirements as their data needs evolve, thereby handling market pressures such as IoT and the transition to 5G.
These companies may find that they’re better suited to working with a vendor that provides well-integrated IaaS and storage solutions, which can offer all of the tools necessary to instantly provision hundreds of virtual machines as well as object-storage capabilities for the creation of data lakes.
But broader IT vendors can provide value that goes far beyond technology, including a wide knowledge base culled from an array of consulting expertise.
Improved Rapport With Enterprise “Versatilists”
Today, any of the people making data-storage purchasing decisions in an enterprise are focusing on more than just storage. Gartner calls them “versatilists“: people who hold multiple roles in an organization—in some cases, even beyond IT.
Versatilists aren’t storage administrators, and don’t just “speak storage.” They’re concerned about many of the other aspects of their IT apparatus, even as they remain responsible for also making storage purchasing decisions. These folks want to talk with vendors who can address and advise them in multiple areas. Versatilists are a contingent that you shouldn’t ignore. They’re becoming more influential and important. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2021, 40 percent of IT staff will comprise these general practitioners.
Breaking Away From the L Word
Enterprise IT buyers are acutely aware of vendor lock-in. The idea of working with a vendor that builds solutions with open interfaces and employs multiple channel partners that can address different needs is highly appealing—more so than working with a storage vendor that focuses on pushing its own closed ecosystem. If those partners can help customers actually implement highly complex solutions that may otherwise require a great deal of up-front DIY work, so much the better.
As with everything in IT, siloed storage vendors with monolithic solutions aren’t going away overnight. But the value that broad IT vendors provide will become increasingly apparent as enterprises deploy modern technology solutions and strategies, particularly hybrid clouds, and as IT infrastructure becomes more integral to companies’ overall business goals.
About the Author
Irshad Raihan is senior manager of storage product marketing at Red Hat.