Cloud storage provides computing, networking, and storage resources on a pay-as-you-go basis. IT resources become an operational expense. Most on-premises data center resources need to be purchased up front. IT resources are a capital expense. The challenge with purchasing hardware and software upfront is that IT needs to buy with the end result in mind. They need to predict to what extent the workloads using these resources will grow, and make sure that the systems purchased support that growth.
Scale-out and later scale-right architectures alleviated some of the concerns over a CAPEX business model. In a scale-out architecture, organizations can expand with a node as the workload demands for performance and capacity expansion. Each node includes storage capacity, storage performance, networking, and computing capabilities. The challenge with scale-out is that not all of the resources of a node are used at the same pace, and eventually the scale-out system becomes out-of-balance. The out-of-balance resource problem was solved by a scale-right architecture. Each node could have additional resources added to it so that resources were completely consumed before new nodes were added.
The next step in the evolution from scale-up, scale-out, and scale-right architectures is composable storage architectures. With composable storage, virtual arrays are created from discrete components available in the cluster. This enables a fine-grained use of resources for maximum efficiency. Composable storage enables IT to respond dynamically to the needs of the organization’s workloads and deliver the exact performance and capacity required by each.
Achieving the Consumption Model of Cloud Storage
The other appealing component of cloud storage is its business model. While scale-out, scale-right, and composable architectures provide the technological flexibility of the cloud, they lack its consumption model. Cloud resources can be purchased at the scale desired, expand with the workloads, and returned if the need passes. Most on-premises workloads, regardless of the architecture, require an upfront purchase for the full amount of the system. Also, each of these requires another full purchase of additional nodes as the environment scales.
These business models can be created on-premises but need to be more than a technology lease. Organizations looking to create a cloud storage experience for mission-critical workloads need the ability to consume resources incrementally as needed. Additionally, they should have the option to have software subscriptions separated from hardware purchases to deliver further flexibility. This enables them to change hardware configurations as required but not have to re-buy software. In classic CAPEX models, expansions require the purchase of new software as most licenses are not transferable across hardware.
If done correctly the vendors providing on-premises solutions have a distinct advantage. Cloud storage providers essentially have only one option. On-premises vendors that adapt their solution and partner correctly can provide many more options.
They can continue to provide a more classic CAPEX business approach to organizations that want it. Ideally, this appliance approach still disaggregates hardware and software. Vendors can also offer a subscription model for the software so that hardware and software purchases can be further disaggregated. Third, the vendor can offer a utility type of solution where hardware and software are bundled and charged based on monthly consumption. Lastly, the vendor can also provide an “as-a-service” model which the customer can leverage with an existing model for workloads such as disaster recovery, or disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), and dev/test.
Two big attractions of cloud storage are flexibility and its OPEX business model but it lacks the deterministic, performance and high security of on-premises solutions. On-premises solutions can benefit from a cloud-like model but vendors have to do more than offer a cloud model that is really a lease in disguise. They need to make technological advances in how their solutions allocate resources and how that solution can be consumed.
Learn more about how composable storage can give you the same flexibility as cloud storage with the dedication of on-premises infrastructure. Download the Storage Switzerland ebook, “Developing a Cloud-Like Experience for Mission-Critical Data”.