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HPE, Dell Unveil Storage-as-a-Service Options

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Dell Technologies are putting a focus on storage in their larger efforts to bring a cloud-like environment to enterprise data centers.

Both system makers this week unveiled storage-as-a-service offerings that make their technologies available on demand and through a flexible subscription model, giving organizations the agility, scalability and on-demand capabilities they have gotten used to with public clouds while retaining control of their data and IT environments.

For HPE, it was the latest step in an initiative first announced in 2019 to make its entire product portfolio available as a service by 2022, with its GreenLake hybrid cloud platform at the center of the effort. In Dell’s case, the storage-as-a-service option was the first offering in the Apex program that was announced in October 2020 and similarly is designed to eventually include everything from servers and PCs to networking gear and hyperconverged infrastructure as a service.

Other established tech vendors are moving toward offering products in such an on-demand fashion as enterprise adoption of hybrid cloud and multi-cloud strategies grows and the line between on-premises IT and the cloud continues to blur. Cisco Systems in March introduced Cisco Plus, a program that eventually will enable organizations to buy everything in its product portfolio through subscriptions.

Similarly, storage vendors Pure Storage and NetApp offer as-a-service programs for some of their products.

Enterprises over the past several years have gravitated toward the public cloud for the promise of greater IT flexibility and scalability while embracing the cost savings that come from not having to buy expensive infrastructure gear upfront. Instead they get access to IT architectures housed in the massive data centers from the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Oracle Cloud while paying only for what they use.

Organizations are now settling into hybrid cloud environments. According to Flexera’s annual State of the Cloud report, 92 percent of enterprises have multi-cloud strategies, while 80 percent are embracing hybrid clouds – leveraging both public clouds and on-premises private clouds. And cloud spending shows no signs of slowing down.

Cloud Costs, Data Control at Stake

However, Dell officials said some cloud users have been stung by what they called hidden costs in the public cloud, such as the networking expenses involved with moving data and applications between multiple public clouds or between the cloud and their on-premises data centers. And now the edge is becoming a significant third leg on the IT stool, creating an even more distributed environment.

Enterprises also want to keep control over some of their data for such reasons as privacy, security and compliance. In a press briefing, Sam Grocott, senior vice president of product marketing at Dell, said that too often, going with the public cloud means having to give too much control to the cloud providers.

“With Apex, this is no longer required to achieve simplicity and agility,” Grocott said. “Apex provides the flexibility and control that public clouds simply cannot. This means organizations can take charge of their own cyber resiliency and the physical security of their IT infrastructure. Apex also enables data to be put precisely where it needs to be located to help simplify data privacy and to meet compliance obligations.”

HPE rolled out its Data Services Cloud Console that provides cloud and unified data operations as a service. It delivers a range of subscription-based cloud data services and an API that offers automation capabilities. Among the first are Data Ops Manager, which enables organizations to manage their data infrastructure from anywhere on any device and intent-based provisioning – driven by artificial intelligence (AI) technology – to more easily use metrics such as the type of workloads to provision the kinds and amount of storage that’s needed.

The company also unveiled a new line of storage hardware that is easily deployed and managed and is available through a consumption-based model. The Alletra 9000 is aimed at mission-critical workloads while the Alletra 6000 is for business workloads.

Drawing from Legacy Technology

In developing the storage-as-a-service platform, HPE leaned on technologies it already had in its portfolio. Key to the Data Cloud Console is Aruba Central, a cloud solution developed by Aruba Networks that uses AI-powered insights to help enterprises manage their networks. HPE bought Aruba for $2.7 billion in 2015 and the company has become not only HPE’s primary networking business but also central to its efforts at the edge.

The console also leverages HPE’s InfoSight software, which collects telemetry around systems and uses the data to decide where workloads should run. In addition, engineers used code base from its Nimble storage systems for the Alletra 9000 and code base from the Primera line for the 6000, according to Tom Black, senior vice president and general manager of HPE’s storage business.

Eventually, most of HPE’s storage systems will be managed through the Data Services Cloud Console.

For its part, Dell’s Apex Storage-as-a-Service offers its enterprise storage via a subscription model and can run it either in an organization’s data center or private cloud or in a colocation facility. The vendor is partnering with global infrastructure provider Equinix, which will host the service in its colocation centers if a customer wants while Dell manages it.

Dell also is offering its Apex Console, a self-service tool that enterprises can use to monitor and manage their Apex services, including identifying and subscribing to services and for using predictive analytics capabilities. The vendor also introduced Apex Hybrid Cloud and Private Cloud services that offer integrated compute, storage and networking resources for both traditional and cloud-native applications as well as a custom solutions service.

Simplifying a Complex Storage Picture

HPE officials said addressing the storage needs of enterprises is important. A survey conducted for the vendor by market research firm ESG found that 93 percent of IT decision makers surveyed said storage and data management complexity is impeding efforts to digitally transform their companies, and 67 percent said fragmented data visibility across their hybrid cloud is increasing risks to their businesses.

Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, said storage-as-a-service has become critical because of the increasing importance of data to the success of companies, particularly given the massive amounts of data that is being created and the need to derive usable insights from that data to create new products and services. IDC analysts are forecasting that in 2025, 175 zettabytes of data will be generated, compared with 59 zettabytes last year.

Just as challenging is the fact that more data is being generated outside the core data center, increasing demand for storage solutions that can extend from the data center out to the cloud and edge. Gartner is predicting that by 2025, 85 percent of infrastructure strategies will include on-premises, colocation, cloud and edge delivery options. In 2020, that figure was about 20 percent.

“Planning for storage is very challenging,” Kerravala told InternetNews. “If companies buy for today, they’ll run out of capacity within months. If they try to buy for two years from now, they’ll need to overbuy so much, it’s not cost-effective. Storage-as-a-service lets companies buy what they need today and then add to it as they need it because it’s consumption-based.”

What IT leaders need to keep in mind when buying storage-as-a-service is the risk that once they adopt a service from one vendor, it could be difficult to move the data to another vendor’s service.

“Customers should feel free to use a storage-as-a-service provider but then migrate the data easily if they want to,” he said, adding that businesses “should ensure the as-a-service provider has provisions to let you migrate data when you want to vs. locking you in by making it overly difficult to take it out.”