There exists a fundamental trade-off in the product world.  Should a customer buy many speciality products? Or would a limited number of more universal product(s) be better.  I have blogged on this trade-off in the past and believe there is no single right answer.  However, when looking at storage anyone can see that it has become crazy-insanely-complex due, in large part, to the plethora of point products in use today.  I believe we are about to see a fundamental shift in direction from many speciality products using custom software and hardware to unified, converged, virtualized, software-defined systems that provide more complete solutions.  Storage technology has evolved to the point where it will converge in similar ways to what has already happened in compute and networking. 

One only need look at what technology startups are doing to predict the future. Virtually none of them purchase storage from the large storage systems vendors. This is a very strong indicator of where the market is headed. The largest of these companies (e.g. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, etc) have gone to the extreme of building their own custom storage platforms! When new companies "start from scratch" because they can't use your technology...well, suffice it to say that that's a bad sign. The writing is on the wall. Now the only question is how long the existing technology will last.

Large storage vendors like EMC have an interesting dilemma. Sure, there is the classic "innovator's dilemma" in terms of self-commoditization but they also have a "technology gap." This interesting issue is that this gap is really about having too much technology vs. too little.

The large storage players have grown much of their business through the acquisition of speciality storage start-ups. In most cases, acquired products are only minimally integrated with existing products. More often than not, these products are simply added to the catalog, new positioning documents created to segment (and sell) the acquired products.

The problem for the large players is that "convergence" is a technology in and of itself.  Having six different products that each virtualize different data types is just not the same as having a single product that can virtualize all six data types.

I learned this lesson personally as the market moved towards SaaS-based solutions. Having lots of existing technology was a disadvantage for existing software companies because most tried to "leverage" old products into a SaaS model rather than develop a new platform. Having lots of existing technology sent them down the wrong path and actually hurt their ability to execute.  It became very clear that the best SaaS offerings were ones designed ground-up for cloud, multi-tenancy and other core capabilities. Instead of being an advantage, existing technology actually became an anchor that dramatically slowed many existing company's ability to transform to the new model.

Convergence, simplicity, multi-tenancy, hyper-scalability are all key capabilities that will be a part of next-generation storage.  As with SaaS, having lots of existing technology to "leverage" may not be a good thing.

 

 

 

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