The cloud era is here. In fact, I’m starting to feel a little “cloud fatigue” setting in. It feels like the cloud is on the verge of swallowing up everything in its path. Don’t take that to mean I’m bearish on the cloud because that’s not the case. But once technologists recognize a trend as powerful as the cloud, they want to see it take over everything. It begins to feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Take the storage appliance market, for example. Although it saw a slight decline last year, it’s still a nearly $1 billion market. That means there’s still a lot of opportunity in selling storage appliances in the cloud era. But you must be prepared when your customer asks questions about the cloud.
This week, I’d like to give you some tips on how to successfully sell a storage appliance like the OneBlox from StorageCraft. Helping your customers understand the benefits of running an appliance on premises versus relying on a cloud service is key to your success. Let’s get started!
Understand their Needs
Even with all the cloud hype, it’s unlikely your customers have moved every server and application to the cloud. For reasons ranging from security to compliance, even companies bullish on the cloud are likely to keep some systems on-site. You goal is to help them understand the benefits of adding storage appliances to their infrastructure. We’ll get into some of the benefits shortly, but first you must understand which servers run locally and which do not. Ask them why they keep them onsite. The answers might surprise you.
Working in this hybrid environment can cause confusion among employees. Do they know where to backup their files? After I moved to Google Apps, I stopped thinking about backups entirely. Of course, that’s not a helpful approach. Running cloud applications in “offline mode” is confusing. And what if they work with very large files that are difficult to backup over the internet? It may not make sense to backup everything to the cloud due to size and performance considerations. Once you understand what you’re working with, you can approach the customer with a solution.
Data Privacy Considerations
Once you launch into a discussion about the importance of keeping data safe, you’re likely to hear stories of data breaches. And there have been some major breaches lately that make their way to the CEO. Leadership will go to great lengths to avoid embarrassment. If hackers can break into companies like Target and Home Depot, how safe is anyone? You don’t want to play up the dangers of privacy and data security too much. But it’s a primary reason companies don’t move specific servers and applications to the cloud. There’s comfort in having total control over your data.
Security experts advise keeping all sensitive and proprietary data onsite. Most financial and surveillance video are best kept onsite due to regulatory issues. It may be easier and more cost effective to encrypt this data onsite. The goal here is to have a frank conversation about what data is best stored in the cloud and which is best kept safe onsite.
Performance and Capacity
Consider your customer’s workload. Imagine they run a media company full of employees creating terabytes of data each day. The size makes working with a cloud backup service impossible. As companies move from 1080p to 4K and 8K resolutions, the files are drastically increasing in size. Maybe once someone like Google make fiber connections ubiquitous, moving media files over the internet will be enjoyable. But today, it’s not feasible. Onsite storage of these large files is the only way to go.
And don’t forget about performance. We simply don’t have the infrastructure in place to outsource the rendering of massive files to a cloud service. You might render small files, but not those taken in 4K or 8K. As GPUs take on more rendering responsibility, I expect companies to expand their rendering farms rather than move them to the cloud. That means they will need a lot of on-site storage. It needs to be fast and it needs to be scalable. I’m sure you see where this is going. Onsite storage isn’t going anywhere for these customers.
Reducing Vendor Lock In
This has been a sore spot for many in IT for decades. Cloud providers see an opening and promise to break vendor lock in. But the truth is complicated. Talk to anyone who has moved their data from one cloud provider to another. They will tell you even they are not sure they got it all. It’s possible, but it often comes at a high cost.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that going with a storage appliance solves the problem of vendor lock in. It doesn’t. But running your own appliance does give you total control of your data. You won’t have to worry about a service shutting down unexpectedly and giving you 30 days to remove all your content. The best storage appliances work with many vendors and many services. In order to meet their goal of simplifying your storage needs, they simply have to.
The cloud promised us cost savings. Let’s just say that promise has been hit or miss, at best. A lot depends on how much data you store and how often you access it. For on-prem data, you don’t pay for I/O. If your customer processes or analyzes large blocks of data, he’s probably better off doing so on-site. Storage appliances that benefit from full of high speed SSDs are the perfect solution in this scenario.
Don’t just assume the cloud is less expensive. It might be if you only look at cost per TB. Companies like Amazon offer different solutions based on how often you need to access your data. It’s best to explore all your options. Costs play a role, but focus on the benefits as much as you can. It’s not always easy to compare costs between an on-site product and a cloud solution. And while cost considerations are important, they are only one of many.
Selling Storage Appliances – An Opportunity
The cloud is changing how we get work done. It’s also introducing a lot of challenges. But with challenges comes opportunity.
Your customers have pain points. Do you know what they are? If you can solve their issues, you will earn their business. Certain workloads work well with cloud storage while others do not. Storage appliances still play an important role in many scenarios.