‘Our flash storage offerings are growing three times faster than the market,’ HPE

Phil Davis - head of Storage for Asia Pacific and Japan, & Joybrata Mukherjee, Country Head, HP Strorage Business at HPE, talk about the key drivers for the adoption of flash storage in India, and more.

Phil: There are at least three major trends that are seen in storage today. 1: There is a continued move from high-end storage to mid-range storage. As a result, the high-end storage market continues to shrink, while the mid-range market continues to grow. 2: Flash is the key reason for the growth of the mid-range storage market. While the growth of flash storage varies depending on the quarter and the country, it is usually between 30 to 70 percent. As we move forward, eventually we will have an all-flash data center. 3: There is a move towards server-based storage. The reasons being

  • Software defined storage: You buy a license and run it on any server anywhere
  • Whole server based storage: This is a hyper-converged storage system, where you have a general purpose server, software defined network, and software defined storage in one single package. This model is still early in India and Asia but it’s a lot bigger in the US today.
  • Object storage: This storage model may take time before it becomes mainstream
These would be three big broad trends in the primary storage array. All flash is witnessing a growth not only because of the data services, features and the resiliency it offers, but also because there has seen a major reduction in its price. Historically, people bought expensive storage for the performance, but if  you can get similar performance for 30 or 40% less, then you are going to move to it. As a result, Flash is also accelerating the move from high-end to mid-range storage. Apart from trends in the primary storage, the other big trend we expect to see is copy data management. The way storage has worked traditionally is that you got a primary array and you make a copy of the data in that array, and then you take a snapshot of that data, and take snapshot of the earlier snapshot and you continue the process so that I can safeguard the data against any future problems. However, as the world continues to move towards all flash arrays, you buy all flash for performance and the last thing you want in your high-performance flash array is to see multiple copies of data. This will lead to more pressure on the backup environment, to be much faster, and cost effective. Flash and performance oriented applications change the backup environment and puts more pressure on speed and seamless integration from the flash array to the backup appliance. Today the way back up works is, you have got a 3rd party server and its running something like data protector and that backs up to the appliance. But this adds cost and it adds latency into the data pack.  If you can seamlessly connect your backup appliance to work with the primary array, without any need for any 3rd party software, you would save money because you don’t buy licenses, and also it would work much faster because you don’t have that latency in the data pack. Any India specific storage trends? Joy:  In India, all flash array adoption is growing; mid-range is growing, while high-end is static. However, for HPE high-end too is growing because of our 3PAR 20K. If you look across sectors, particularly banks, telcos, we are seeing a lot of success.  We are also witnessing immense growth in backup solutions. Our HPE StoreOnce is growing. In the last 2-3 quarters, tapes has seen a decline while in D2D (disk-to-disk) we have grown, which is a very healthy sign as we move forward. Which sectors are the biggest adopters of flash storage? Joy: BFSI and Telco are the largest spenders. BFSI is investing in a lot of new areas including risk management, portfolio management, and software defined storage. For instance, large banks have between 3000 to 14,000 branches. There is a lot of compute invested in on the branches with disk capacity idle. These banks are trying to utilize this disk capacity by creating an enterprise plus storage data services. So, on those kinds of decentralized large compute, software defined storage will be very relevant in India. In India, do you see any new business verticals leveraging flash? Joy:Over the last few quarters, we have seen a rise in large hosting service providers, internet companies, and e-commerce companies which require all flash from day one. They need a complete business as well as cost analysis on a 3-5 year TCO with power saving and cooling, etc. In order for their business to survive, they must optimize cost.  So, they are pretty mature in their commercial decisions. However, for more conservative organizations, like manufacturing companies, etc, they take a safer option and go for a hybrid mixture, work load centric for low performance application going for SaaS. Phil:  Banking has been an early adopter of flash for a number of reasons. Five or six years ago, banking used flash on trading floors, which required low latency. However, they knew what flash was and what it could do. Now the price of flash has come down so dramatically and since they were already using it, what they’ve done is just expand using flash. The other reason that banking is using flash is that banking has historically been using mainframes and Unix systems, and big storage systems, and as they migrate those workloads on to X86 or lower cost hardware platforms, they are also looking at ways to save money on storage, however they continue to have performance requirements. Flash enables them to deliver the performance they want, but in a much more cost-effective manner than their traditional high-end storage array. If you look at flash it’s roughly the same price as a 10K drive now. And it’s much cheaper than a 15K. Almost 2 years ago we launched flash at less than $2 per usable Giga Byte (GB), and now it’s less $1.5 per usable GB. You know that’s very competitive, with a 10k drive system, but cheaper than some of the older market storage architectures. What are the key drivers for flash adoption across e-commerce companies? Joy: E-commerce is a very competitive marketplace, that places a lot of importance on service levels and performance commitment or SLAs and they need to focus on a very low operating costs. If you look at some of the large players today, they are in a domain which is very cost conscious and in order to stay competitive, their decisions are hugely based on the essence of delivering at the lowest price. This is where they actually architect a solution. If you consider a 3-year analysis of flash; you will see that it is high on performance and a low cost option. Hence, flash will be the future. Phil: Let me expand on why customers are going for flash. It’s not just for the technology that the customers are going for.  We touched upon the price per usable GB, which is important but the other things that customers don’t realize initially, but as they get into it, they understand that they need a lot less capacity to deliver the same performance. So, if in the old days, you needed 2 TB to deliver the performance, because it needed so many spindles, with flash becoming high performance you might be able to do it with 1.5 TB. While price of flash has come down a lot but you also need less physical storage to deliver the same performance. This directly translates into money saved for a business. What are some areas of resistance for the customers to deploy flash storage? How do you convince them? Phil: So, I think the base skepticism we still see is around reliability. Two/three years ago there was a lot of press that flash systems were not going to be as reliable as hard disk drives. In fact we’re seeing the opposite and it’s intuitive.  Solid state devices tend to be more reliable than spinning disk drives, and so intuitively you would expect it to be more reliable.  All of our flash systems come with a five-year warranty. I think the number one objection I still hear is concerns around reliability, so how do we handle it? Show reliability data, and provide a 5 year warranty. The number two concern is probably – have other people done it? Or am I the first to take the plunge? They want to see how the others have fared. Joy: In India, most CIOs would like to view use cases, performance parameters and the experience over a period of time before they take a decision. In the last few quarters, numerous sectors have deployed all flash array in a big way.  For instance, two of the largest telcos are using all flash array in banking, one of the largest public sector bank, and a largest private sector bank are also using all flash array for their core banking. Many vertical domains have deployed all flash array and been using this for over 6-9 months.  How different is the adoption of flash in India as compared to other countries? Phil: Like with other technologies, adoption of flash started in the US then it moved to Western Europe. Here in APJ we saw adoption of flash began in New Zealand first which probably about a year and a half to two years ago. India would be what I would consider to be the second wave in Asia, which also included Hong Kong, Singapore. This was followed by adoption in other emerging markets and Japan which is the mature market, but tends to be slow on adoption of new technology. Joy: Last 2 quarters we’ve been seeing a lot of surge in the adoption overall because we have a very small base, however our year-on-year growth is much higher and this base continues to increase. What will be your strategy to convince CIOs and newer business verticals to adopt flash? Phil: Our flash storage offerings have been growing roughly 3 times faster than the market. This is because we have a very different approach towards our flash solutions. All of our major competitors have gone and acquired a company and that has been their entry into flash. While at HPE, we built up an all flash system from the ground up. That has been a huge advantage, because one – it works with all of our other systems. When you buy a 3rd party company, it’s another silo. It will not work with your company systems, but when you build from the ground up, it will have the same data services, same management, same OS. Whether its disk drive, hardware or all flash, it’s all the same. That’s a unique point. Furthermore, we are the only ones with the whole single architecture. For instance, our competitor has 7-8 different products in their portfolio. After their merger, they’re going to pick up 3 or 4 architectures, so that’s very confusing is what our customers tell us. It is also a risk. Because as a customer you want to know if the all-flash storage array you bought is going to be there 2-3 years down the line. In our case, we just refreshed our entire portfolio in the September – October 2015 time frame and we’re taking a lot of market share. Another strategy we take with our customer is establishing that we’re here for the long term for them both on our all flash as well as broader enterprise store. So there is accountability. The other thing is that our customers tell us is that they don’t want any compromises in terms of data services. Disk systems had very rich data services, for 20 plus years’ replication, provisioning, snapshots, they build and move workloads around arrays what we call peer motion. If you look at the flash systems, most of our competitors, don’t have those data services, it’s all about performance. Joy: We go to the extent of providing the customer with a proposition which is multi-year service level based, where they pay on a quarterly basis, which we call Flexible Capacity. So it’s a combination of capacity, performance and highest service level over a period of time and with a cash flow which is quarterly. Where do you see yourself five years down the line In India storage market? Phil: Four years ago we weren’t even in a flash market, while three years ago we were number 10, two years ago we moved up to no. 5, and now we are no. 3. We have gone from not being in the market 4 years ago to no. 3 today, and that is a pretty strong statement that we have made the right decisions along the way.

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