Will Storage Software Be the Key Differentiator?

By Henry Newman

I have been looking at hardware platforms and the value of hardware compared to software. The storage hardware stack and functionality is pretty similar these days from the low end to the high end. Yes, there is differentiation with performance, reliability and of course price, but for the most part the functionality at the user level is about the same.

The big difference to the end user is coming down to software to manage the storage -- not the hardware. Examples of this include software that decides where to put your data or software that moves the data to where it is needed in the environment, whether that be in the United States, Japan or the United Kingdom. These are just two examples; there are many more.

Hardware in my mind has become even more of a commodity. The value to the end user and higher profit margins is going to be for companies involved in software. The winners on the software side are those vendors able to integrate the software into environments to meet the requirements of various markets. Like it or not, standards are not going to be around to allow things to seamlessly move between platforms to implement seemingly complex new data policies.

Today, in most cases this is accomplished by applications running on top of file systems. This is the new frontier to implement these policies, but that might not be the case as we move forward.

So what does all of this have to do with hardware? The industry has been talking about hardware as a commodity for years, but the hardware vendors continue to add a feature here and there that differentiates their products. I think the end of the line is near, and software features are where the market will innovate at least for the next few years.

This article was originally published on January 11, 2012