Good times or bad, all size organizations need data storage. The difference is that when times get tough as they were in 2009, we start to see those storage providers that deliver a good value for the dollar get the nod over those that deliver only so-so value. But what is notable about 3PAR, which recently received some positive comments from Barron’s, is that 3PAR is making inroads in the high end of the storage market where start-ups are not supposed to succeed.
In the last week of December 2009, Barron’s commented that 3PAR has “cheaper, more advanced technologies that larger rivals initially ignored”, its data storage systems “do more with less”, they are “unusually flexible” and support a “multitenant environment”.
Given the Barron’s article, I wanted to examine further how 3PAR’s technologies are contributing to the company’s appeal.
3PAR has managed to accomplish something that few other providers of storage systems have succeeded in doing: break into high end data center environments as a start-up without first starting in the small and midsize space. The article mentions that 3PAR has picked up some impressive enterprise customers such as MySpace, Verizon, Credit Suisse and Priceline.com but it fails to mention or examine just how rare it is for any start-up storage provider to experience any type of success in the enterprise data center space.
Talk all you want about “cheaper, more advanced technologies”, “doing more with less”, and being “unusually flexible” but to succeed in enterprise environments, it takes more than that. In these data centers, storage providers need dependable and reliable enterprise solutions which traditionally has been a prerequisite to success.
3PAR has succeeded in a rather unique way by delivering dependable and reliable enterprise solutions without the need for professional services. Some of its competitors continue to get enterprise business with what I consider inferior products because they make guarantees to enterprise IT management and staff that they will “darken the skies” with professional services people should they ever have a problem with their product.
While this sales tactic sounds good in theory, there are only two problems with it. First, to make this offer means that they (the storage provider) are assuming that you (Mr. Customer) will at some point have a substantial problem with their storage system or that the solution presented by sales somehow will fall short of its intended objective. This also makes it a necessity that they put such a guarantee on the table so that when this unforeseen and unexpected disaster strikes, the customer has assurances the storage provider will be there to make things right.
But from where I sit, this guarantee is somewhat disconcerting. If you are buying the right product for your environment, one would think the need to “darken the skies” with professional services help would be an isolated and rare incident, not a regular occurrence.
Having talked to both 3PAR and a number of 3PAR storage customers, such incidents appear rare. Richard Siemers, a storage admin with Pier 1 Imports, probably puts it best in regards to 3PAR’s services model. He says, “Professional services (PS) are something I prefer to do without. A ‘Statement of Work’ is not intended to be a customer friendly document. Often the ‘professional’ sent is nothing more than a below average tech with a collection of good instructions and a speed dial to a real professional. I appreciate 3PAR for the way they operate without PS, and I appreciate the SE we have assigned to our account.”
Second, many of the storage systems sold into today’s enterprise data centers were initially designed to work in mainframe environments and then retrofitted to work with today’s distributed system environments. This is not necessarily wrong but a certain amount of baggage accompanies such design decisions. This is largely reflected in the level of complexity and amount of knowledge that one must first possess in order to setup and manage these storage systems.
In the past, this may have been less of an issue since many of the individuals responsible for managing these storage systems had years of expertise and technical ability that they acquired while managing storage on the mainframe side of the house.
But that experience does not come easily, data stores are burgeoning and organizations need storage solutions that match their virtualization requirements. Administrators no longer have the time and patience to learn everything there is to know about storage and the speed of today’s business world is forcing them to select storage solutions that are designed – not retrofitted – to meet today’s requirements.
It is these demands that 3PAR’s InServ Storage Servers meet. They are easier to manage, more space efficient, handle multiple application workloads, require less time to operate and are a help rather than a hindrance to the organization. In short, they better match the skill sets and time constraints of the administrators tasked with the responsibility of managing them.
From a technology and support perspective, 3PAR is succeeding where many others have tried and failed. And while some speculate that 3PAR may be negatively impacted by its competitors as the economy begins to rebound in 2010, don’t count on it.
3PAR delivers the high availability, reliability and support that enterprise environments demand but its storage servers are architected to deliver the new levels of flexibility and ease of use that today’s enterprise storage administrators need. It is precisely because 3PAR delivers these features for today’s more distributed and increasingly cloud-oriented enterprise data centers that it should continue to succeed against incumbent storage providers without the requirement for professional services engineers to darken enterprise data centers to keep everything up and working.