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The Type of Storage Scalability and Flexibility that SMBs Now Want

Today’s blog entry comes out of some recent conversations that I have had with end users in the small and midsized business (SMB) space. Some common themes about how these individuals want to scale their storage solution are beginning to emerge and they strike a different tone than what individuals in the small, midsized and large enterprise space have to say. In short, they want to control their storage growth at a much more granular level and they do not want to be penalized for having that level of control.

SMBs have storage needs than are much different that what those in the enterprise space need. Aside from the fact that they generally need much less storage capacity, other clear differentiators are emerging as I talk to these individuals. They include:

  • Granularity in scaling storage systems. When these individuals talk about scaling storage systems at a granular level, they mean it. They do not think in terms of adding shelves or racks of additional storage capacity that may need more storage controllers. Rather they think in terms of incrementally adding a single disk drive or two to an existing system that they can pay for as they need it and when they need it.
  • Access to all storage capacity. One of the possible hindrances of this approach is that if a RAID group of 500 GB SATA hard disk drives (HDDs) is already set up and you add a 1 TB drive into the mix, you can only use 500 GB of that 1 TB of storage capacity. The problem for storage vendors who are trying to compete in this space, don’t tell this group of users that your RAID implementation does not support using that extra 500 GB of storage capacity. These users are already doing the math and will figure out quickly that if they do switch to a storage system that does support that extra 500 GB, they may just make that wholesale switch next time around.
  • Don’t be charging me extra for that software. A common storage vendor practice is that as users add more storage capacity, users have to pay extra software licensing fees to use existing features like replication or thin provisioning on that storage capacity. That story doesn’t resonate too well with this class of users. Refer back to the previous point if you think they will hesitate to switch.
  • iSCSI works just fine, thank you. More of these users are abandoning their previous FC implementations or, if they only had direct attached storage (DAS), they are simply going with iSCSI and avoiding the expense and overhead of FC. Most are finding that 10 Gb Ethernet with iSCSI works just fine. Or in some special cases like with RELDATA, it gives its users the option to trunk up to four 1 Gb Ethernet links as one common pipe. These users are telling me that they are seeing 2x or more application performance boosts when using iSCSI instead of FC or DAS. Further, they are not using very sophisticated means to measure these performance gains (often just a stop watch to measure application responses time) but the performance is so much better, this technique is good enough.
  • Just give me the drive and I’ll do it myself. These individuals are more prone to accept responsibility for doing some tasks themselves. So they are willing to take an HDD shipment from a vendor, insert it into the storage system and then configure it for use as long as it is relatively straightforward task.

These observations are just part of a general trend that I am seeing among users in the SMB space. I fully expect these factors will start to more heavily influence their buying decisions going forwards as they more aggressively adopt networked storage and look to do so in such a way that meets their more restrictive budgets.

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