The importance of value rather than volume
We are in a tough economy where the ‘do more with less’ mantra reigns supreme…and, in fact, is often a necessity to ensure survival. It is odd, then, that so few vendors seem to understand the importance of delivering value rather than volume. It seems that they would rather overlook this fundamental shift in the market. It seems that many vendors would rather sell you more of just about anything (i.e. deal in volume) rather than looking at how they can help you get better results from what you have today (i.e. deal in value). And, while this problem is widespread throughout the IT industry, let’s focus on how this plays out in the world of data protection specifically.
As an example, let’s look at data deduplication. Data deduplication has been heralded as the solution to the problem rampant data growth. In theory, it is a great solution. In reality, its general applicability as the solution to all data storage woes is grossly overstated. In fact, the issue of volume described above is very pertinent. See, the issue with data deduplication is that no one can really tell you how well any piece of data will deduplicate. As a result, it is necessary to buy more disk than you would expect to need as a safety measure. One example I heard from someone recently indicated that data deduplication had been so effective in their environment that they were only using 5% of their available disk. Congratulations, but now I am confused. Surely that person had to pay for 100% of the disk. So, by my calculations that means they overspent by 95%? Now, I know it is not that cut and dry but, hopefully this emphasizes my point – throwing a lot of disk at something in, for example, a data deduplication play may deliver some benefits but it will also likely deliver some significantly higher costs than would be required by taking a more measured approach and assessing how existing technology might be used more efficiently first.
This, then, highlights the volume problem. Volume is all about throwing more at a problem; more disk, more tape, more switches, etc. The problem with volume is the “more” part of the equation since “more” also comes with more cost! And, quite often, more does not actually allow you to do more because it simply adds to the complexity and administrative overhead of an existing solution.
But, there are alternatives. Backup virtualization products seek to leverage existing resources, consolidate them in such a fashion so that they are easier to manage and can be accessed from a centralized single device instance. Such products often employ a small disk cache to act as a staging area for data in a store-and-forward like fashion or use advanced software-based resource allocation algorithms to ensure optimal use of storage resources. They do not, however, serve as the final resting place for data and therefore can involve other technologies – tape, disk and even data deduplication appliances. By acting as a gateway between backup applications and data storage systems they can mask the weaknesses of older technologies. To get a better idea of what I am getting at here, think of an old computer trying to run a new version of Windows. Most of us have had this experience and it is frustrating because once Windows loads, and the application we want to use loads, it probably works great. But, starting up the system is horribly painful and takes forever. So, do you throw out the computer and buy a new one. That is what Dell would love for you to do. But, what if there was software that you could install that would make everything work like you had the latest greatest computer but still using your old machine and it only cost a fraction of buying a new machine? That is the opportunity backup virtualization systems offer.
And that is where value comes into the equation. Backup virtualization enables you to identify ways to do more with what you have today presenting you with an opportunity to realize a clear return on a more modest investment. It lets you see where your money has gone and you can see that you are in a better position for having spent it. It recognizes that people have hardware that is underutilized and deployed in inefficient ways and it offers a solution. Backup virtualization delivers value rather than volume and that is what sets it apart.
What path will you choose? Are you content buying into the “more, more, more…” volume way of life or are you ready to get with the times and truly do more with less. I suspect your CFO wants it to be the latter.