|Exiting the Astrological Age
of Enterprise SSD Pricing|
editor - July 17, 2014
|There was one of those big moons facing
me for most of the 1 hour drive back from the theater last night - and my wife
and I who both have science and engineering based backgrounds were speculating
about the possible causes of this dramatic effect.|
My contribution to
this conversation about the big ghosty shimmering light in the sky was lacking
in credibility however - as my brain receptors had filtered out optics on
first contact in school when I already knew that my interest was
electronics and not bendy glass stuff.
So the plausible scientific
explanations in the car driving towards the big hanging moon on the horizon
were mostly coming from my wife Janet - who had worked during one university
summer vacation at an optoelectronics company (1975) - and whose final year
project involved a laser cannon which was bigger than those you sometimes see in
the Big Bang Theory - and more like the size of those in Pirates of the
Caribbean. (Lasers were generally big in those days, had massive power packs
and were kept in locked rooms with danger signs to deter terrorist students
playing with them.)
But - no - she didn't know what made the moon look
like that either.
And I realized almost as the words were leaving my
lips that my theory about the moon's appearance was going to sound like a
mash up between all the concepts I'd ever heard of that could bend light:-
gravity? refraction? Hogwart spells? - It was all the same to me.
It was all part of that bendy glass stuff - which I was never interested in -
and it reminds me now of failed school physics experiments.
How many colors do you say you see?
I'm color blind. Who needs that
many colors? In a later part of my career I used to joke with advertisers of 24
bit color graphics accelerators for workstations - 8 bits is more than I need.
- It's lucky your customers aren't all like me.
Anyway Janet and I
both agreed that the best thing to do would be to look it up on the internet
when we got home - which is what we did.
Don't ask me. I was none the wiser because the most interesting
explanation which Janet found involved looking at some optical illusion diagrams
which involved a load of shapes and colors - at which point I lost interest.
was interesting that the moon on our journey back from the play looked like
something out of a science fiction film hovering above the road in the direction
we were driving.
Apparently it wasn't just the size - but the dramatic
I said the sci-fi idea would work better for me if I
was seeing 2 moons.
That's another color analysis based value
judgement I guess.
When we visited the
National Gallery (in London)
with Janet's sister once - they had a special exhibition of Italian paintings. I
was through in 5 minutes and spent the next couple of hours reading a book in
the tea shop - which is at the exit to the maze.
Your ancestors and
mine didn't have the luxury being able to google pseudo scientific explanations
of the lights they saw in the night sky - and that's why - over a period of
thousands of years they came up with many fascinating stories which tried to
explain what they were seeing and how it all tied together in a reassuring way
which helped them understand the world they were living in.
brings us back to SSDs - and in particular - the subject of enterprise SSD
Although the many stories about the true nature of the
stars, moon and other heavenly bodies in the night sky were created and
developed over many thousands of years - the SSD market which has a
history (spanning about 40 years) - has nevertheless managed to accrue an
imaginative body of literature which includes truths, half truths,
mysticism, misunderstandings. myths, legends - and in some cases - downright
balderdash - when it comes to the subject of SSD costs, pricing and
As someone who has been involved with the enterprise
SSD market since the 1980s - it's been interesting for me to observe how these
stories grew. I've written more than a few myself. And over the years I've
collected snippets from some of these SSD price anecdotes, cost
justifications and switching model anecdotes in an my article which started
out with the title Clarifying
If we use the astrology / astronomy comparison and
relate this to enterprise SSD pricing - I think we can divide SSD history into
these simple phases.
- the Dark Sky phase of SSD pricing:- from the 1980s upto the late 1990s.
this period - as far as most people were concerned - the inherent beauty of the
possibilities in the SSD market were as opaque and unknown to most people in
the computer market as the brilliance of colors in a picture by Caravagio were
to me when I raced through an exhibition of his paintings. (As I described
SSDs didn't need universal cost justifications. Because using
SSDs was mostly a tactical project related design decision made when no
other technical approach would satisfy the mission objective - (speed,
reliability or both) - and when it was desirable to get the system working -
despite the very high cost.
- the pre-modern era of SSDs - from the late 1990s to 2002.
this period - there were several pioneering companies in the enterprise SSD
market who had figured out economic justifcations for users (with the right kind
of application profiles) to deploy SSD accelerators as a much cheaper option
to the other alternatives they had using the arguments of SSD-CPU equivalence.
problem for vendors in that phase of the market was that - as far as most of
their potential customers were concerned - SSDs were like the twinkling
objects in someone else's sky - maybe on another planet or at best in the other
That presented many challenges of
education. And even
when customers were won around to the arguments - there was a lack of automation
support for implementing SSD acceleration solutions. A serious inhibitor to
revenue growth was the number of
hot spot tuning
engineers employed by SSD companies - and the willingness of customers to let
SSD suppliers from small companies delve deeply into their live computing
infrastructure and twiddle with the data addresses and apps.
another serious problem for vendors in that period was that most users did have
other viable alternatives which were easier for them to understand - even if
they did cost more.
- the modern era
of SSDs started in 2003.
That was the year when not only did SSD
stars become visible to a larger population of people - but the first
scientific theories about SSD pricing were published and analyzed - relating the
SSD CPU equivalence concept to a market impact - rather than merely a
project by project impact assessment.
It didn't make the earlier
business development problems go away - but it meant that SSD companies and the
founders of future SSD companies who understood the market models - realized
that if they invested enough resources into fixing SSD adoption inhibitors -
there would be a big enough market in the future to make such investments pay
There was also an optimistic mood starting in the industry from
2003 onwards that "the market advance of SSDs as a significant well known
core market within the computer industry had become a historical inevitability
- and the only serious technology which could displace an SSD from its market
role was another SSD."
That was markedly different from earlier
phases in SSD market history - in which an enterprise user might buy an SSD
accelerator to solve an urgent performance problem - but then for a similar
project a few years later might find that due to advances in processor speed,
server RAM limits or speedups in hard disk array interfaces - they could get
by without SSDs (and in the meantime the original SSD product line had
terminated and the pool of alternate SSD suppliers was tiny and hard to find.)
new dynamic - once an SSD customer - always an SSD customer - meant that SSD
vendors didn't simply have to keep finding customers who had never used SSDs
before. If they kept improving their products - those same customers would be
still be receptive to them. And for new entrants in the SSD market - the
growing population of SSD savvy user sites - meant they could significantly
shorten their business development lead times by stealing customers developed by
the earlier enterprise SSD pioneers.
How does that relate to
enterprise flash pricing and the affordability of SSDs?
- 2008 to 2013 - the clear sky era of enterprise flash.
2008 - even
users who weren't going to buy an SSD until many years later - couldn't fail
to notice the twinkling market efforts emanating from an SSD ecosystem
which numbered 100 SSD companies listed on StorageSearch.com by the end of 2008.
But as the visible SSD universe expanded into the start of the
SSD market bubble in
2010 - the market moved into a new phase of multiple interpretations,
explanations and misinformation about the economic cost benefits of enterprise
flash - which was compounded by these problems.
Many SSD vendors
themselves were clueless about the real economic benefits of their products -
because they didn't know enough about the
application experience - and the diversity of user businesses and risk profiles
This spawned many techno babble justifications for
SSDs - which sounded plausible - because they included
SSD performance jargon
and because they came out of the mouths and blogs of technical enterprise
But many of these in my view were sadly about as
useless (in the context of being usable business ideas which you could
extrapolate good decisions from) as if NASA had taken my knowledge of optical
physics (which I mentioned above in my big moon story) - and if NASA had used
my knowledge of optics to design experiments for the next generation of deep
OK - on that basis (being the lowest bidder) I might
have got away with that for about 10 years till the space probe reached its
destination - but if NASA had also relied on my equally scant knowledge of
microwave communications - let's just say that they would have realized they
had a communications problem while they were still on the ground.
goes to show that someone can be an expert at one subject - while being clueless
at many other things at the same time.
that 2014 will be seen as the start of a new phase of creativity in the
enterprise SSD market on the subject of pricing and affordability.
evidence for that - I'm going to mention 3 companies at the end of this article
- whose recent activities - while different in detail - were swirling around in
my head this week.
Inadvertently - these companies and their pricing
ideas were looking for a way to be related to each other in a blog - by a
means which was more memorable than some read-and-forget comments tagged
onto the end of an SSD news story or blog.
Before I give you that
list - here are the some of the market assumptions which underlie this new
Most competent SSD marketers will admit to some of these
Most competent SSD users will recognize some of these
- They don't really understand all the technology in their products. (Only 3
people in the company understand the technology. And less than half of what they
say is understood by anyone else. And that's a high comprehension score
compared to the lawyers who file the patents. Which is fortunate - because the
competitors will get to read the gibberish they write later.)
don't really know what all the other companies in the SSD market are doing.
(Who's got time to read all that stuff? And how can you even be sure the
market reports are
writing about the things that matter? Just follow the trails on linkedin - even
if only to get an early alert about your own job being advertised.)
can't predict exactly where the next few revolutions in SSD thinking will
come from and which new ideas will need to be adopted, competitively
countered or rejected.
They don't understand everything they would
ideally like to know about the current user experience of SSDs or the
future user experience either.
They do know that most enterprise SSD
users will - given time and a fair wind - will come back to buy more SSDs.
Amidst all that
uncertainty here are 3 companies which are intended to help get more business
done. I've put them in the chronological date order of my learning about
their new business models - a span of 2 months - so the only significance of
this listing system - is that it will make it easier for me to add more names
to the list when I do my end of year round up of 2014.
- Even if they can articulate their exact technical needs today - they know
those needs will change.
Just like the vendors - they don't
understand all the technology either. And curiously they see a bigger range of
different competing SSD solutions in the market than the vendors they talk to
seem to be aware of. That prompts the question - just who are the experts in
the SSD market?
believe everything about the past, present or future of the SSD market which
the vendors are telling them.
They know they can't believe everything
they read in SSD blogs either. But which is the more risky decision strategy?
Relying on so called expert analysis in blogs which offer simple diagnosis
and prescriptions for the SSD hard drive headache in a way which sounds
simple and understandable? Or working harder to become a better expert than
the enterprise SSD bloggers out there - who - while being good writers -
have mostly been parachuted into a country they couldn't find if you showed
them a map.
They know that they can't afford not to buy SSD somewhere.
But the best places to start with SSD may not be the best places to continue
investment. Many of the solutions which promise the smallest integration
bumps today will lead to much bigger bumps in the future.
if something goes wrong - it will be their problem.
way to exit the astrological age of enterprise SSD pricing
Tegile Systems -
effective (virtual) capacity
Violin Memory -
as you grow (for Windows Flash Array)
Does this mean that
rational and analytically based SSD price and competitive adoption models are
All of the models I've presented in these pages
since 2003 are still valid as explanations of the forces driving disruptive
switching behavior and SSD market adoption. Though while many people still
need to know this stuff - most of you don't.
This new era of simpler
sounding virtualized SSD pricing models won't make the market any easier
But what it will do - is give users new choices about
the kinds of risks they feel comfortable with taking on.
pricing preference models (and the new ones and the me-toos which will
inevitably follow) will add more multipliers to pre-existing
By which I mean that not only will rackmount SSDs be
differentiated by the internal technology architectures and compatibility
roadmaps as they have been upto now - but 2 similar products from 2
vendors which have almost identical technology inside - and a similar cost to
build - can now radiate different degrees of user attraction - depending
on the pricing models by which they are monetized.
It will be
interesting to see which ideas get copied most. And to see how much impact they
PS - Oh if you want to know what we saw at the theater last night
- it was 2x one act plays -
Miss Julie (Strindberg)
followed by Black Comedy (Shaffer) at the Minerva in Chichester, England.
They were really enjoyable. And I look forward to seeing more. (As you can see -
I'm not really cut out to be a drama critic.)
|In a 2004 SSD survey of
SSD user preferences StorageSearch.com posed the question...|
would make it easier for you to buy SSD technology and remove doubts and risks
which currently act as roadblocks?
52% said - "performance
44% said - "try before you buy"
|Hmm... it looks like you're seriously
interested in SSDs. So please take a look at my latest SSD blog on the home page
|About the publisher - 22
years guiding the enterprise market|
ScryWare business plan
generator had an optional plug in for pricing.
Much simpler than
one of those 3 day pricing courses.
|Users now realize that in
their own self interest they have much to gain from abstracting the benefits
they get away from the diverse feature sets of any single supplier towards a
minimalist set of common must-have features which will satisfy all their needs
while giving them independence from failed or greedy suppliers. |
market consolidation? - everything will change|
| Many SSD marketers I
talk to nowadays regard the price per gigabyte of their latest product almost as
a badge of honor. But it wasn't always like that. SSD pricing used to be a taboo
|Breaking Taboos on SSD
|What's the role of systems
In the past it has always been about optimizing whatever
was seen as the most valuable resource.
At various times and in various places that "most valuable
resource" has meant different things.
|Where are we now
with SSD software?|