Click here to close now.


@CloudExpo Authors: Jason Bloomberg, Philippe Abdoulaye, John Grimm, Mehdi Daoudi, Steve Watts

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

Breaking the Storage Array Lifecycle

Cloud storage appliances can grow to a virtually unlimited storage capacity without the need to ever upgrade

Anyone who purchases storage arrays is familiar with the many advantages of modular storage systems and storage area networks. However, they may also be familiar with one of the less desirable attributes of storage arrays: the typical three- to five-year lifecycle that forces decommissions and mandates upgrades on a regular basis. With many organizations expanding their need for storage by 20-60% on an annual basis [1], outgrowing capacity of existing storage arrays is a regular occurrence, effectively rendering upgrade cycles to be a fact of life.

Although decommissioning and upgrading a storage array may not appear all that daunting, the process includes a number of cumbersome aspects:

  • The migration process from old to new storage arrays could last months, creating an overlap when both the old and a new storage array must be maintained. In some enterprise environments, the migration can cost thousands of dollars per Terabyte [2]
  • When purchasing a new storage array, its sizing is based on anticipated future growth, resulting in an initial capacity "over-purchase" and an underutilized storage array for most of its life cycle. Result? Pre-payment for capacity that may not be needed over the next two years
  • Software and architectural changes associated with each storage array upgrade may compromise stability or, at a minimum, require staff retraining on new policies and features

The Economics of Storage Array Replacement
Why decommission arrays at all? Why not simply expand storage capacity by adding new storage arrays instead of replacing them? With storage densities and capacities growing every year and cost per gigabyte dropping, the economics provide the answer.

Consider a three-year-old, 10TB storage array that costs $50,000 to purchase and has a total annual maintenance cost (vendor maintenance fee, administration, floor space, power, cooling, etc.) of $25,000 per year. Now let's say today the IT manager purchases a new 25TB storage array for $50,000. Thanks to improved storage density, it may carry the same total annual maintenance cost of $25K per year.

If the manager chooses to keep both arrays active, he would now have data residing on the old storage array at $2.50/GB in annual maintenance cost and data residing on the new storage array at only $1/GB in annual maintenance cost (with plenty of capacity to spare). This economic inefficiency makes a pretty strong business case for decommissioning the old array and moving all data to the new array as quickly as possible.

Is there any hope of breaking this storage array cycle?

There is hope with on-demand cloud storage. Cloud storage substantially changes the economics and deployment of data storage and makes some of the aspects of the storage array life cycle start to disappear entirely.

  • The pay-as you-go cloud model eliminates the need to pre-purchase or over-purchase capacity
  • Cost per GB drops over time as cloud providers continue to lower costs every 6-12 months
  • Storage capacity is virtually limitless, so there is never a need to decommission or upgrade any hardware

The area chart below illustrates some of the economic inefficiencies of this deployment model. While most organizations consume storage at a near linear rate over time, the required initial pre-purchase of capacity results in a relatively disproportionate up-front investment. The blue area on the chart shows how total cost of ownership (TCO) increases over time with traditional storage deployment - note the spikes at every purchase cycle (Q1 Y1 & Q1 Y4). The green bars on the chart illustrate how TCO increases with a pay-as-you-go cloud storage model. Even in this simplistic case where the TCO of both models is identical after three years, you can easily spot the inefficiencies of traditional storage, which requires pre-payment for unused capacity.

This is a very basic analysis. In practice, there are many additional costs that factor into traditional storage deployments including:

  • Administrative costs of the migrations from old arrays to a new arrays
  • Potential overlap where both arrays must be maintained simultaneously
  • Potential downtime and productivity loss during the migration process

Furthermore, the analysis does not capture some of the additional cost savings of cloud storage that include:

  • Economies of scale in pricing and administration as a result of leveraging large multi-tenant cloud environments
  • Price per GB erosion over time

Factoring these additional costs of traditional storage and additional savings of cloud storage may be enough to convince most organizations that it is time to introduce cloud storage into their existing IT infrastructure, however, when it comes to deploying a cloud storage strategy, many companies don't know where or how to begin.

Introducing Cloud Storage into the Organization: A Hybrid Approach

Replacing traditional storage with cloud storage will break the traditional storage array life cycle, but a complete "forklift" replacement may be overkill. While cloud storage may not necessarily meet all on-premise storage needs, it can still augment existing storage infrastructure. A hybrid local-cloud storage environment can streamline storage operations and can even extend the life cycle of traditional storage through selective data offload.

A more conservative approach might be to identify data suitable for cloud storage such as secondary copies, backups, off-site data and/or archives. Interestingly, archives are often stored on traditional onsite storage to make them easily accessible to meet compliance requirements. By some reports, like the one below from ESG, the growth rate for archive data is expected to grow approximately 56% per year.

With literally hundreds of thousands of petabytes of archives to store over the next few years, the benefits of offloading archives or infrequently accessed data from traditional storage are numerous. In fact, transitioning this data to cloud storage can extend the traditional life cycle of storage arrays beyond the typical 3-5 year time frame. Imagine a 6-10 year storage array life cycle instead. That would result in a reduction of capital investment in storage infrastructure by half and introduce a significantly more efficient just-in-time, pay-as-you-go model.

How can businesses leverage tiers of cloud storage in a manner that integrates seamlessly into an existing storage infrastructure?

Connecting the Storage Infrastructure to the Cloud
Given most storage consumed by businesses is either block-based or NAS-based, an on-premise cloud storage appliance or gateway that converts cloud storage to a block or NAS protocol can greatly simplify deployment. When choosing a solution, keep in mind that, unlike NAS, block-based solutions have the advantage of supporting both block-based access and any file system protocol. Block-based iSCSI solutions support petabytes of storage and provide thin-provisioning, caching, encryption, compression, deduplication and snapshots, matching feature sets of sophisticated SAN storage arrays. These solutions can readily reside alongside existing SANs and are available in both software and hardware form factors.

Cloud storage appliances can grow to a virtually unlimited storage capacity without the need to ever upgrade, eliminating many administrative burdens and risks of the storage array life cycle. Since cloud storage is pay-as-you-go, cost adjustments occur automatically, eliminating the economic inefficiencies of the storage array life cycle.

In combination with a cloud storage gateway or appliance, businesses should also consider storage tiering software. Auto-tiering software can be found in storage virtualization solutions, data classification solutions, and even in some hypervisor solutions. Businesses that choose an auto-tiering framework can immediately begin to extend the life cycle of their existing storage arrays and leverage the benefits of cloud storage by selectively offloading infrequently used data.


  1. IDC: Unstructured data will become the primary task for storage
  2. Hitachi Data Systems: Reducing Costs and Risks for Data Migrations

More Stories By Nicos Vekiarides

Nicos Vekiarides is the Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of TwinStrata. He has spent over 20 years in enterprise data storage, both as a business manager and as an entrepreneur and founder in startup companies.

Prior to TwinStrata, he served as VP of Product Strategy and Technology at Incipient, Inc., where he helped deliver the industry's first storage virtualization solution embedded in a switch. Prior to Incipient, he was General Manager of the storage virtualization business at Hewlett-Packard. Vekiarides came to HP with the acquisition of StorageApps where he was the founding VP of Engineering. At StorageApps, he built a team that brought to market the industry's first storage virtualization appliance. Prior to StorageApps, he spent a number of years in the data storage industry working at Sun Microsystems and Encore Computer. At Encore, he architected and delivered Encore Computer's SP data replication products that were a key factor in the acquisition of Encore's storage division by Sun Microsystems.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
The revocation of Safe Harbor has radically affected data sovereignty strategy in the cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Jeff Miller, Product Management at Cavirin Systems, discussed how to assess these changes across your own cloud strategy, and how you can mitigate risks previously covered under the agreement.
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them ...
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Su...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
In recent years, at least 40% of companies using cloud applications have experienced data loss. One of the best prevention against cloud data loss is backing up your cloud data. In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Sam McIntyre, Partner Enablement Specialist at eFolder, presented how organizations can use eFolder Cloudfinder to automate backups of cloud application data. He also demonstrated how easy it is to search and restore cloud application data using Cloudfinder.
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and t...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now ...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true ...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem"...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound...
As organizations shift towards IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing & protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. CommVault can ensure protection & E-Discovery of your data - whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, San...
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user e...