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Years ago I bought a (relatively) fancy car. for a reasonable price. It got great gas mileage and I got it at a great price. I quickly found out though that the car suffered from a few problems.

  1. This car required expensive parts when things broke. A lot broke before I could really get any use out of it at the beginning.
  2. This car had enough problems that it spent a lot of time in the shop. This was far too much of my car ownership.
  3. I was paying a lot for this car to sit idle in an airport parking lot.

Now some of you might ask: “Why not just go buy another care and trade that in?

The reality is that I was trying to avoid the overhead of the car buying process itself. Not the cost of the car but the cost of the entire process was frankly daunting once you included research, negotiations, financing fees, sorting out a trade in. There was also overhead and cost in making sure that what was delivered was actually what was promised.

HyperConverged Infrastructure (HCI) powered by VMware vSAN helps optimize costs in many ways. IT assets (much like cars). can have a long drawn out confusing and expensive purchasing cycle.

More Options more cost

Logic at first would rule that a single vendor being considered for a purchase means higher cost. This is true to a point, but when you start evaluating 6 different storage vendors for purchasing, that’s 6 different proof of concepts, six different configurations that need to be reviewed, six different sets of multiple meetings. When you sum up the cost of a conference room full of infrastructure people for that many meeting the labor carrying cost can end up very non-trivial. A few of these costs associated with the purchasing process are:

Preparation – Identifying what your needs are. Identifying existing growth, consumption (hunting down the various islands).

Review – Researching if their features are truly parity, or if they are simply “checkboxes”. This phase includes a lot of meetings where you discuss 6 different vendors how they are different.

Negotiation – This involves the back in forth of getting a quote that both meets your needs and is cost competitive. Single bid this to a single vendor for hardware and you might see higher prices. Bring in six vendors and decide on price and prepare to be underwhelmed by someone who over promised to win the business.

Validation – Once a product has been selected it needs to go through internal qualifications. The new design selected for the product must be validated, smoke tests performed, and operations teams training and validation of said training is needed.

All of these costs raise the question of why you even need to go through this cycle? Why do people who want to avoid the car buying experience get forced into this process?

Planned Obsolescence

3 and out – Many storage vendors play games that purposely sabotage the TCO of an existing storage asset to force you into going through this painful process. Once the existing support terms have been reached, they will artificially spike the support costs by multiple factors (or simply not lower the support cost per GB to keep in line with falling prices of NAND). This process makes “purchasing new” more attractive. Ever try to get a basic repair done at a dealership once a warranty is expired? Get ready for the same hardball tactics once a storage array nears the end of life. Ideally, they have a new platform/model picked out for you, but it may make compromises or require other costs (like data migration).

The expired lease – A new trend is to only offer subscriptions for an HCI or storage product. While this helps to align with opex/cloud costs, it should be noted that arbitrary price increases are easy when your terms on these are short. This means you are also perpetually rebuying the product and not far off from the 3 and out model. Anyone who’s delt with weird fee’s at the end of a car lease is familiar with these cost games.

Poor focus in investments – It’s not uncommon for a storage company to proclaim undying loyalty to a given storage platform and it’s future until they the decision not to. Failure to maintain internal R&D to satisfy development often leads to a platform becoming a technology cul-de-sac. As the proud owner of the last run of the Xterra I know I can’t buy another one.

Business failure – Less common in car manufacturing, there have been a few storage companies shut their doors and stop answering the phone forcing fast replacements. Other possible outcomes to business failure are firesales or acquisition by private equity groups looking to maximize profit with little-added R&D.  Trying to guess who’s going to fall into this camp is hard, but looking for profitability is possible on public ventures. If this happens to you expect marketing emails from “storage vultures” looking to take advantage of your misfortune and force you into the purchasing cycle. Be aware that technical analysts often focus on the technology, rather than the financial reality when giving glowing reviews to companies shortly before they implode. Unfortunately out of support/abandoned storage arrays will likely never have the collector appeal of a DeLorean.

Make a final purchase – vSAN powered HyperConverged Infrastructure

So how do we get out of this never-ending purchasing cycle of buy and replace? VMware HCI powered by vSAN could be the last storage you ever buy. There are a few compelling things to go with this decision:

Perpetual licensing – VMware support renewals don’t have arbitrary 3x renewal costs. Year 4 of owning vSAN isn’t something you should fear.

Evergreen socket licensing – vSAN socket licensing stays with you and outlasts your servers as long as SnS is maintained. It gains new features and functions. Moving a vSAN license put on a server in 2014, to a server in 2019 is going to mean significant improvements in TCO performance and capacity without new licensing costs needing to be paid for that license.

Focused investment – VMware vSAN is VMware’s only product in this space and R&D commitment continues to grow and remain strong. vSAN is a key piece of the digital foundation that underpins VMware Cloud on AWS, Project Dimension, vCloud Foundation, and other key initiatives. You do not need to guess if VMware is going to be committed to the product a year from now.

Transparently Disclosed Future – It is true that nothing is certain but VMware is a profitable company. There are transparent and audited disclosures and SEC filings that clearly spell out earnings per share and other metrics of financial health.