By Adam Fore, Director, Cloud Solutions Marketing, NetApp
One of the things I enjoy about my job is the opportunity to meet with customers who visit our Executive Briefing Center and discuss their virtualization projects. Invariably, we get to the topic of storage efficiency and the implicit (or explicit) request to “show me the money.” In other words, get specific on how NetApp can help to stretch IT budgets and reduce storage spending on a scale similar to the savings they’ve achieved with server virtualization.
A great starting point for these discussions is the data collected via AutoSupport, the NetApp “phone home” service that automates and accelerates service delivery for our customers. With My AutoSupport, detailed storage efficiency information is available to all of our customers on a self-serve basis. If a customer is new to NetApp, we can share the aggregate results for over two-hundred thousand systems, or generate a custom view for a particular industry or use case, such as server virtualization.
It is this detailed, real-world data that enabled us to introduce the NetApp Virtualization Guarantee Program back in 2008, and then expand the program to new platforms and extend it over time. Since then, a number of companies have introduced “me too” guarantee programs, claiming savings of 25-50% for a specific platform or a narrow set of use cases.
With that in mind, here are five filters that you can use to compare these guarantees:
1. Are the savings based on a single technology? As the saying goes, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. While every bit helps, a single approach – such as Thin Provisioning – can take you only so far. NetApp offers a number of storage efficiency technologies that you can use individually or in combination to reduce the amount of storage you will need.
2. Will you actually implement the technology? Theoretical savings don’t pay the bills. For example, if block-level deduplication doesn’t work on your file data and can’t be used with other efficiency technologies, like data compression, then maybe your “guaranteed savings” will go from 30% to zero. NetApp pioneered many of today's storage efficiencies technologies, and they have become the default settings for most of our customers. For example, 97% of all of our customers’ FAS systems employ our space-efficient snapshots, over 80% of systems in virtualized environments have enabled deduplication, and over 70% of those systems are also using thin-provisioning.
Conversely, you also want the ability to turn features off, and at as granular a level as possible. For example, some data can be deduplicated nicely, but actually expands if compressed with traditional techniques. NetApp makes it possible to mix and match efficiency technologies as needed to get the best results.
3. Are you guaranteed savings for multiple storage protocols, hypervisors and platforms? Today’s virtual and private cloud environments place a premium on flexibility, and the ability to quickly implement IT projects can have a big impact on time-to-market and time-to-revenue. However, the premium on flexibility does not usually come with extra budget. Efficiency guarantees that are limited to specific protocols (e.g. NFS-only, block protocols only); hypervisors (VMware only); or platforms (backup only, mid-range only, and so on) may evaporate when the next project comes along. The NetApp Unified Storage Architecture enables you to take full advantage of our storage efficiency technologies across multiple protocols and hypervisors and across our entire family of FAS platforms. In addition, those savings can be preserved when you replicate data to another FAS system for DR copies or backups, so precious network bandwidth is minimized and you don’t need extra space for “rehydration” (reverse deduplication).
4. Can the vendor help you achieve similar savings for your legacy storage systems? After we introduced our 50% savings guarantee, we documented the efficiencies that our customers realized while using NetApp controllers to virtualize other vendors' storage, such as EMC and Hitachi. As a result, we introduced a 35% guarantee when our FlexArray software is used with non-NetApp equipment, another industry first. We actually guarantee that you will use less storage when using NetApp technology with another vendor’s storage!
5. Will the vendor still be in business next year? This may sound like FUD but it is simply a fact of life in the storage industry. A review storage of startups in 2013 documented the long odds against success for most of them (only 3% ever go public). If your vendor closes up shop, then you will be stuck with a worthless guarantee as well as an impaired storage investment. NetApp passed through this risky stage nearly 20 years ago – well before we introduced our storage guarantee program – and the company has since grown to become one of the FORTUNE 500.
A final note: like the “money back guarantees” offered by some consumer products companies, many vendors are banking that you will never go back and evaluate your savings against the guarantee. At NetApp, we give you detailed information to monitor your progress via My AutoSupport and other tools, so you can see exactly how much storage you’re saving.