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The Economics of Open Storage

While pandemic-induced economic challenges have been devastating on many fronts, the financial system has responded to counter the unprecedented macro-financial shock. While the system experienced liquidity problems initially as Covid-19 premiered, these were mitigated by financial strategies induced by the country’s financial leadership.

Despite facing challenges at the domestic level, along with a rapidly transforming global landscape, the U.S. economy is still the largest and most technology hungry market in the world. The U.S. economy represents about 20% of total global output and is impressive by any measurement. Moreover, according to the IMF, the U.S. has the sixth highest per capita GDP (PPP). The U.S. economy’s highly-developed and technologically-advanced services sector accounts for about 80% of this output. 

According to recent data storage market projections by Coughlin Associates (1), growth in storage capacity shipments of HDDs is forecast to rise 20% year-over-year, rising from 1,200 exabytes in 2020 to nearly 4,000 exabytes by 2025. The global enterprise storage market is observing growth due to factors such as the growing need to store large amounts of data among enterprises and growing advancements in enterprise storage systems and devices. Additionally, the increase in endpoint-driven data acquisition is expected to further boost the growth of storage requirements in the enterprise market. There is also a rising demand for cloud computing which is expected to fuel increasing sales for enterprise storage systems now and in the years to come.

Proprietary vs. Open Enterprise Storage

The vast majority of traditional enterprise systems are proprietary by design. With this comes a number of financial and operational hurdles faced by businesses worldwide, including nickel and dime premiums for important features such as frequent snapshots and/or replications, access to automation APIs, and friction when enterprise buyers have requirements for lower-cost licensing and support. Some features, such as silent corruption detection, data deduplication, and write cache resilience in the face of power outages, have traditionally been restricted to proprietary storage solutions targeting only the largest enterprises.

Many organizations see the end of standard vendor maintenance/upgrades as dated proprietary systems are cut from product lines and ongoing support agreements. With the cessation of this support comes an end to software upgrades and system enhancements necessary to maintain efficient operations. Management capabilities begin to fall behind and the integrity of sensitive data may become at risk as security features fall behind the industry standard. In response, IT storage professionals typically migrate organizational data to a new platform, which is disruptive, time consuming, and expensive. Those that remain with the outdated vendor or system architecture are faced with submitting to maintenance contracts with costly multipliers.

Unlike proprietary enterprise storage, Open Storage marries the benefits of Software Defined Storage (SDS) and Open Source, enabling users to choose from a range of hardware, software, and support levels. Industry standard hardware and software components are integrated into a simpler system that leverages the cost structures of industry-standard servers. Some Open Storage solutions even support a range of file, block, and object access protocols and provide a unified storage solution which significantly reduces infrastructure needs and creates more application flexibility than traditional SAN storage.  A select few Open Storage solutions also enable hyperconverged infrastructure with applications and storage integrated where it makes sense.

Open Source-based storage using industry-standard components and media is changing the industry dynamic by dramatically lowering the cost of true enterprise-grade storage. The approach has entered the enterprise mainstream as the industry moves past the point where open source was looked upon with skepticism, and the high volume of Open Storage users (and testers) has enabled very high software quality levels to be achieved. Now, many organizations have mandates to adopt Open Source in order to accelerate the economic and time-to-market benefits brought by the technology. 

Open enterprise storage eliminates the coin-operated approach to feature upgrades, and instead, ships with a full suite of features that have no artificial capacity limits. This means that organizations can deploy storage solutions with the same set of features across their entire data center. Open Storage returns control to the enterprise with greater choice and without vendor lock-in, while also providing professional support, community collaboration, and comprehensive documentation. Open enterprise storage puts an end to guessing about which storage systems provide the required functionality so that capacity and performance needs are met swiftly. Neither manual workload placement nor convoluted migration strategies are required to work around licensing restrictions. Finally, Open Storage offers the flexibility, agility, and security to take full control over both the architecture and the destiny of data centers in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

In one example, Ashland Food Coop needed a storage system that would work with vSphere and provide the needed IOPs to maintain multiple concurrent virtualized servers as well as provide redundancy and fault tolerance through backups. The organization selected TrueNAS, which would provide more than enough horsepower to solve the performance bottleneck, while still providing plenty of overhead for future growth of their virtualized infrastructure. To solve their need for fault tolerance, Ashland Food Co-Op opted to procure two identical appliances, the second replicating itself from the first to provide the necessary redundancy and disaster recovery. In order to meet the read IOPS requirement of Ashland Food Co-op, a flash-based TrueNAS system was deployed for extremely low latency and high IOPs performance by moving process-critical or active data closer to the CPU where it is processed.

Through deploying TrueNAS, Ashland Food Co-op has met, and even exceeded, its need for high IOPS in a virtualized environment. Beyond performance, it provided extra levels of stability through its replication and snapshot features. Ashland Food Co-op currently employs periodic snapshots every 15 minutes, bringing their executive staff the peace of mind to know that their data would be safe.

Open Storage provides all of the enterprise features needed for any particular environment, including VMware integration, thin provisioning, inline compression, snapshots, and replication, with no hidden licensing costs. Reputable vendors in the Open Storage category offer this with around-the-clock enterprise-grade customer support – providing the versatility and scalability required to manage data growth without compromising on features or performance.

As it’s now standard for Open Storage to deliver enterprise-class features, services and platforms, supported by best-in-class vendors that leverage the industry-proven Open Source file systems like OpenZFS, organizations are now able to better control and manage their storage operating environments. As a counter to traditional, proprietary storage products, open storage allows the customer to better manage budgets without giving up key features and capabilities or enterprise-grade support. When a storage technology refresh is imminent, storage industry experts now recommend giving consideration to Open Storage for both primary and secondary environments as today’s solutions deliver benefits, cost-savings, and flexibility not found with proprietary enterprise storage. For example, many organizations use Community (free) versions of the software for development and test environments.

The popularity of Open Storage in primary and secondary storage environments is increasing as the case for Open Storage economics gains traction in a growing number of businesses worldwide.Open Storage systems, including TrueNAS by iXsystems, are available to businesses as pre-configured systems at highly competitive prices. Such cost-effective systems, configured with dual-controllers and with capacities of 50TB for less than $10K or Multi-PB systems for less than $70K/PB, making these systems some of the most cost-competitive enterprise-class storage platforms on the market. 

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