I put file virtualization in the same category as block storage virtualization: they are both technologies in which businesses usually see the value but have a hard time pulling the trigger to make virtualization technologies a reality. The reason that businesses tend to hesitate in acquiring virtualization technologies in whatever form is that it requires hard dollars to solve what are perceived by businesses as soft dollar problems.
In this respect, most virtualization companies are still blind to the fact that while virtualization is a great concept, businesses often don’t care. Vendors fail to articulate how virtualization saves businesses money or generates new revenue which is what businesses care about the most. Simply providing a better, faster way to manage one’s computing environment or making their employee’s jobs easier is interesting but not a compelling reason to buy. One senior vice-president once told me point blank when I pitched (provoked?) him on storage virtualization, “Your personal quality of life is not very high on my priority list.”
These normally unspoken sentiments by business leaders are forcing virtualization vendors to do more than just come out with compelling technologies. Virtualization vendors must deliver compelling reasons that prompt businesses to buy virtualization because most businesses don’t really care about “single logical pools of data”, “global name spaces” and “easy data migrations”. They care primarily about meeting their quarterly numbers, not running their data centers in an optimal virtualized state.
The good news is that some vendors are starting to get this message as today’s announcement by Attune Systems shows some evidence. When briefed about the latest release of their product, Attune Systems provided me with the normal litany of new bells and whistles that their Maestro product offered: New support for Data Domain’s DDX arrays; a new appliance (the Maestro File Manager ES) for entry level environments; and the flexibility to easily identify potential storage saving, unauthorized file access or stranded capacity.
Then Bill Katz, Attune Systems’ Director of Product Management, made an off-handed comment that crystallized for me the new value proposition of file virtualization. One of Attune Systems’ resellers’ customers was subject to a $200 million fine because they could not expeditiously respond to a legal discovery. Now a $200 million hit, no matter how large an enterprise is, is bound to garner attention from upper management and prompt them to take action and fix whatever the source of the problem is.
Katz’s comments are part of what DCIG is increasingly finding in its studies and stressing in its analysis. The new motivation for companies bringing in new technologies has less to do with optimizing the data center but more to do with avoiding horrific legal penalties. Companies can always throw more people at a problem with minimal or no costs to their bottom line but Katz’s comments echo what DCIG is finding. Companies no longer have weeks or months to produce data associated with legal discoveries; they have hours or days to respond or else lost court cases and financial penalties are the result. Virtualization is becoming one way that companies can use to automate this process.
This is part of the new value proposition that Attune Systems is putting before existing and prospective clients. Attune Systems seems to have learned that unless a technology either saves or makes money, companies are not inclined to buy it. Granted, their technology still needs to work and there are rumblings that Attune Systems Maestro still has some bugs to work out, but from a value proposition, Maestro is starting to show business value that is demonstrable beyond just a better way to manage one’s file servers.