The Future of Enterprise Storage is well “Defined”!

By Kevin Liebl, Vice President, Marketing, Zadara


Software Defined Infrastructure enables Storage-as-a-Service

For decades, large array vendors dominated the storage industry. When you needed enterprise storage for your company, these vendors were safe bets.  They were not cheap and were not always flexible, but they provided an enterprise-grade solution, and as they say, “you would not get fired for choosing one of them”.

However, over time, the industry began moving to more flexible virtualized and eventually cloud-based resources.  This changed everyone’s perception of how IT resources could be — and should be — deployed.  At the same time, both the “capacity” and “value” of corporate data continued to grow rapidly causing an exponentially growing problem.  The old model of negotiating an expensive capital expenditure (CapEx) purchase, over-provisioning because you didn’t know how much you would ultimately need, managing the hardware for 3-5 years and then restarting the cycle again, became unmanageable and obsolete.  The new operating expense (OpEx) business model of simply ordering what you need today, paying only for what you use, leveraging the economic benefits of the cloud and being able to grow (and shrink) your usage as-needed, was clearly a smarter choice. This was the emergence of Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS).


However, let me back up for a minute and explain why none of this would be possible without Software Defined Infrastructure (SDI).  In the old CapEx model, large storage vendors would spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars developing custom hardware that provided sophisticated storage functionality. This could have been done either in hardware or software.  However, it was much easier to protect the intellectual property (and keep margins high) by putting the functionality in the hardware.  This forced corporations to continue to purchase the expensive, rigid storage arrays from these very few vendors.

Early in my career, one of my managers explained to me that there are two very important things to remember if I was going to work in the computer industry: 1) Eventually, all hardware will fail, and 2) Eventually, all software will work.  Obviously, there is a pun buried in there.  Most early versions of software were not very stable (at least at the time).  However, with each revision, software becomes more stable and should essentially run forever.  The transition from the older CapEx storage array industry to Storage-as-a-Service (using Software Defined Infrastructure) is essentially built on these two principles.  There is no reason to build expensive, proprietary, and difficult to maintain hardware, when you can use industry-leading, off-the-shelf components and built the customization into flexible, easy-to-update software.

Ironically, the most powerful and admired companies in the storage industry became victims of their own success.  The reason they became dominant, multi-billion dollar, highly successful companies is the same reason they are now crumbling and are being sold.  They built almost all of their value in expensive hardware and ultimately became inflexible, overly expensive and generally difficult to deal with.

Industry analysts show a clear and consistent transition away from older CapEx storage to OpEx-based Storage-as-a-Service.  IT Brand Pulse shows that by 2020 OpEx will reach 50% of overall storage spending and by 2023, 80% of storage spending will be OpEx (Source: IT Brand Pulse, October 2015).  The 451 Research firm shows that all of the major storage vendors who have dominated the industry over the past two decades will lose market share while the Storage-as-a-Service vendors show massive growth (Source: 451 Research, 2016 Storage Outlook, January 2016).


One of the most critical elements that companies wrestle with when moving from traditional storage to an as-a-service model is whether they will sacrifice functionality for economic and flexibility benefits.  This is where Zadara Storage has taken a leadership position.  Zadara Storage, by working closely with Intel, has developed “Enterprise” Storage-as-a-Service, providing IT professionals with the same level of enterprise-grade storage that they have used for years, but with the flexibility and economic benefits of cloud-based solutions.  The storage is available “anywhere” – in the cloud, on-premise or in hybrid configurations. Further, by leveraging the fundamental elements of Software Defined Infrastructure and cloud-based technology, Zadara can offer greater business continuity, disaster recovery, security and other advanced storage features than previously offered by the traditional vendors.  To learn more, visit Zadara Storage on the Intel Storage Builders website, download the Zadara Storage Solution Brief, or visit