It's always interesting when you're made to re-evaluate and look at things differently. Cirque du Soleil has been doing that for years now; traditional 'circus' acts became fascinating entertainment that could make us stroke our chins or drop our jaws. In other words, something you thought you knew was presented in a new light. And yet the underpinnings of what Cirque does are not brand new - it did not invent the wheel or discover fire; instead, it took elements that existed already, and did something that no one had seen before. In other words it represents invention rather than discovery, but nonetheless it has created something compelling....not to mention the fact that it's generated a ton of revenue, spin-offs, and imitations.
I've seen a few recent parallels in the storage industry from new(ish) vendors that I thought I'd highlight....simply because they are interesting, with subtle but important twists on things you thought you'd seen before, but in fact have not! I've just chosen three examples; I'm sure there are more, so ping me or comment below and I'll add to this on another occasion. Meantime, we'll go alphabetically:
Drobo: you may have heard of this amazing little storage device; initially focused in the SoHo and prosumer spaces, it has gradually been moving into the SMB market, where its combination of powerful features with brain-dead-ease-of-use and extremely attractive pricing is making users re-evaluate whether or not they really need to buy from the 'big boys.' So why is it on my list? Because it just booked a 1 petabyte deal....and continues to blur the lines about what constitutes 'serious business storage.' I realize that the world in general has moved on from GBs to TBs, but a PB is still not a volume of capacity bought by amateurs!
NexGen Storage: we are moving rapidly to a storage world dominated by a mix of solid-state with hard drives (whether in an overall system, an appliance, or a device) designed to serve an application and processing world that is increasingly consolidated, virtualized, and complex. NexGen is a hybrid storage system that seeks to ensure that the most appropriate users and applications get the service levels they deserve; in other words it's a QoS for storage performance. In the event of any challenges (which could just be unexpected workload spikes, as well as during disk rebuilds or component failures), mission-critical apps get protected at all costs, while lower priority jobs must wait for resources. Oh - and it works, as this recent ESG Lab shows. Why is it here? Well, although there are some similar concepts available in really high-end, mega-$$ systems, this delivers on the concept in a simple, automated, made-for-'regular'- IT-departments' fashion, and is about serving applications rather than just delivering data.
Symform: Consider two things: first, it's a distressing fact that much of the world's purchased storage capacity isn't actually used to store anything at all. It is spare capacity, sitting idle - a necessary but ultimately undesirable side effect of the way we run just about every compute platform. Secondly, everyone wants their data protected. Got the connection yet? Symform is a service that utilizes the internet to spread data protection around and across the spare capacity that everyone and every business has. It's a kinda mega-cloud, kinda peer-to-peer storage grid, and it's wholly very clever. With encryption and almost-ludicrous wide-geographical-striping (RAID 96 as the company calls it), the attraction of effectively unlimited capacity 'out there' for protection and archive purposes that you 'pay' for by trading your spare capacity is obvious.
You can see the basic elements in all three stories: there are ingredients you've seen before, but in ways that should make you think differently and appreciate how imaginative combinations can lead to new value. After all, Cirque du Soleil is way more than its components of contortionists and acrobats!?
You can read Mark's other blog entries at The Business of Storage.