Having just read Chris Mellor’s article on measuring the size of the storage industry, I thought a quick blog post on the topic was in order. In data from IT Brand Pulse, AWS is quoted as the biggest storage vendor in the world. With this in mind, is it time to ditch the legacy trackers?
Analyst firms have been providing industry tracking data for decades. These metrics have generally followed the appliance market, tracking the sales of bespoke storage appliances and storage sold with servers. When shared or SAN-based storage was the dominant architecture, this measurement criteria made sense. With the evolution of SDS and storage-as-a-service, these measurements look increasingly irrelevant.
Arguably, the benefit of storage trackers started to wane with the introduction of all-flash and hybrid storage systems. Analyst benchmarks insisted on unique SKUs for all-flash products because the tracking process is much easier to maintain when a storage appliance can’t be upgraded with hard drives. The development of these systems was a marketing benefit for vendors and a convenience for analyst firms.
Arbitrary boundaries like this have no long-term benefit. The storage market is fragmenting into new hybrid solutions that combine disk and flash, flash and persistent memory, flash and Optane SSDs, NVMe-based systems, SDS, DPU technology and more. Every legacy appliance vendor wants to sell storage-as-a-service, which will be delivered using a mix of hardware resources obfuscated from the customer. This strategy could conceivably include tape and other cold storage solutions, which generally don’t get included in analyst trackers.
Back as early as 2016, we were predicting a slow-down in the appliance market. Nearly five years ago, it was apparent that something was wrong with the tracking process. A year later, we wrote about the rise in “ODM” as a category in the tracker models. This development represents storage sold into hyper-scalers.
However, hardware sales don’t represent an accurate view of the market. AWS, Azure, GCP and other cloud service providers earn storage revenue from services, not appliances. AWS was clearly not passing on the cost reduction in media to their customers. Instead, the company changed its model to offer new services at a reduced cost for reduced functionality or performance.
Many SDS vendors (especially the new container-based solutions) sell no hardware at all. How do we account for their sales?
The Architect’s View™
At Architecting IT, we’ve stopped quoting the data from other vendors’ trackers. As a method of measuring the size of the storage market, or the relative revenue of vendors, the use of appliance or media sales has become increasingly irrelevant. It’s difficult to see whether storage sales tracking has any long-term benefit at all, as the age of the pure-play storage company comes to an end. A much better indication of the strength of one vendor over another can be gained from product analysis and quantifying a vendor’s ability to deliver to customer needs. Time to ditch the trackers!
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