The value is in our people, not the technology
Ah, the marketer's dilemma. I recently found myself in a situation where I really needed to name something important. It's not a product or a feature, it's more like a process. Here is the scenario. Brian Carmody, the CTO of INFINIDAT, did a presentation at Storage Tech Field Day a few months ago. He started the presentation with a “Why” question. By the way, the notion of starting with ‘why’ and my allegiance to Simon Sinek notwithstanding, Brian’s talk is worthy of any TED talk out there and I found his introduction about the impact of storage on genomics research captivating. In the video, Brian eloquently explains that in a nutshell, “the biologists in genomics research are kicking the storage technologists ass!” I highly encourage you to watch this 4 minute video.
It has been said that data is the currency of today’s economy. The competitive business process is about wringing as much value out of that data as possible and using it to your competitive advantage. It starts at its foundation with the raw material, the data. Next comes the technology to process the data efficiently. There is software to analyze the data and storage to store it. Additionally, there are people who manage all the technology surrounding the data and finally, the people who know what questions to ask of the data and how to intelligently interpret the results to gain important business insights. It’s not just what the data says, it’s what is learned from it that can help drive better business results. Getting at these insights faster and more cost efficiently than others is what gives your business a competitive advantage. This is the competitive business process. Right now, the largest cost in this whole equation is storage. In some cases it is too expensive for businesses to continue to survive.
In my mind, I am trying to extrapolate Brian’s example in genomics more broadly. Brian states that “storage is holding back the scientific mission” and “the biggest problem in genomics research has nothing to do with biology, it's storage.” To me this means that you can have all the resources you need, the ability to capture the data, the software to process it and the smart people to analyze the results to make the best decisions, but if you can’t afford to store the raw material -- the data, your company will go out of business or you will become irrelevant.
Every day, the incumbent storage vendors work very hard to try to identify how to charge more money for their disk drives because their legacy business models require it. The problem with this philosophy is that they are not helping their clients be more competitive. Having a fast storage array that is expensive doesn’t help. Having a cheap storage array that is not reliable isn’t helpful either. Clients need solutions that are fast, reliable, can scale and are not only ‘low’ cost, but priced in such a way that they won’t jeopardize the overall purpose of the competitive business process.
The question then becomes, “how does a storage vendor make money and keep Wall Street happy?” Disruptive innovation is how. It's time for the vendors to start figuring out innovative, new approaches, that drive the cost of storage down and the performance and reliability higher. Doing so would ensure a brave new world where storage vendors’ clients can compete on their intellectual prowess, not their wallets.