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Historically, storage has been a high-cost -- but critical -- component of enterprise IT. That high purchase or lease cost comes with additional, somewhat hidden costs to the business. The process to design, buy, install, maintain and extend disk infrastructure easily consumes copious amounts of time -- and time is money.
Storage as a service (STaaS) has reduced these challenges. Done right, it can keep costs in check and improve operational models. If large, or even mid-size, organizations are not considering STaaS, they might miss a notable opportunity to gain more control over storage and its overhead. For IT operations teams, an emerging class of on-premises storage as a service has the potential for further benefits.
How STaaS simplifies capacity planning, management
Virtualization and cloud have pushed storage consumption requirements to previously unknown levels. Enterprises have become accustomed to requesting extremely large VMs with massive amounts of storage -- to the degree of 1 TB or more of storage per VM, which is expected to be performant. This, combined with last-minute, unforeseen demand, makes storage management a nightmare for IT teams.
Most administrators are familiar with run-on VMs, wherein a request depletes storage reserves. To fix this issue takes time and resources. One of the benefits of storage as a service is that administrators only need to request more storage from their STaaS providers -- not worry about additional disks or other hardware.
With on-premises storage, the bigger the infrastructure, the more protracted and complex management becomes. Hardware failures, upgrades, code fixes and ancillary hardware and software all take time to manage or remediate. The process by which IT admins implement additional storage can be long-winded, resource-intensive and expensive. STaaS lifts these management obligations off the company.
STaaS cost benefits
Most businesses prefer Opex over Capex, and storage costs are no different. The upfront costs of on-premises storage systems can be quite large and, as any IT person knows, the higher the price tag, the more difficult to get the business on board. With STaaS, the Opex model, with monthly, usage-based payments for services, makes the storage investment easier to justify. The long-term financial liability no longer belongs to the company.
Traditional on-premises storage systems also tie the company to a specific vendor, their customer support teams and cost models for the duration of a contract. It lacks the flexibility of STaaS, which provides greater mobility between providers.
The next generation of STaaS
On-premises storage as a service is essentially a second phase of STaaS. The big cloud providers realized the value in providing storage as a service, but STaaS in cloud computing has some challenges. For example:
- IT teams rely on storage infrastructure that's outside their control.
- Latency issues can make cloud-based STaaS unsuitable for certain, business-critical applications.
- The traffic costs associated with moving data in and out of a cloud-based STaaS offering can quickly rise.
- Issues with the cloud provider's infrastructure can lead to outages.
With on-premises storage as a service, a vendor -- such as IBM, Pure Storage or Zadara -- provides and manages physical storage infrastructure. Think of it as leasing both the necessary storage hardware and management services; the company must only request additional storage as needed. It insulates the company from onerous tasks, such as array management, firmware upgrades and SAN switches. The specifics vary between vendor contracts, depending on customer requirements.
On-premises STaaS provides the desired performance without the associated risks and issues that accompany a cloud-based service. It also opens up features that were unusable over an internet connection.
There are various storage tiers available -- such as those that support Serial-Attached SCSI for standard data and Serial-Advanced Technology Attachment -- which enables organizations to use different on-premises storage types that are optimized for specific data types. These tiers were neither viable, nor deliverable, in cloud-based models, due to the locality of the data versus the application or service itself.
With on-premises STaaS, there's no longer a worry about how much storage sits unused. The allocation of disk space becomes dynamic, both in usage and billing. And, unlike cloud-based STaaS, on-premises offerings don't have ingress and egress charges for data.
STaaS on premises also simplifies demand management for local storage systems. Self-service tools and portals have changed the concept of storage consumption and usage forever. Because the storage service of choice comes preloaded with a large buffer, the addition of extra space becomes as simple as asking for extra TBs, allocated as required.
The latest generation of STaaS on premises can deliver tremendous value. It helps guard against awkward conversations with customers when a run on storage means they wait for the company to purchase and install the additional storage shelf. As long as companies choose an appropriate storage vendor, they can significantly reduce the issue of wait time for additional components. It is not uncommon to have purchase and delivery times in months, rather than weeks.