Got back from a round of travels, and ran into several larger IT shops that were getting a new present for the holidays, courtesy of IBM: one or more XIV arrays to "evaluate".
I found this interesting on several levels, and I'd thought I'd share my thoughts
The story was pretty much the same -- the XIV (IBM?) rep was getting goaled on getting eval boxes out there -- not on selling anything, that'd be too hard -- and, as a result, a lot of eval boxes were showing up in data centers.
What Does This Say About IBM?
In their last earnings call, they weren't too positive about storage. My guess is that IBM's market position in this segment has deteriorated substantially over the last six months, meaning that IBM has to do something rather extraordinary to stem the tide.
"Free" storage is one thing, I'll grant you that.
Generally, speaking, people tell me it's an OK box for what it is: nice GUI, not particularly fast, missing a whole bunch of features, one kind of disk drive (SATA), consumes a lot of power, etc.
For me, anyway, this is a clear sign that IBM is making a final stand to stay relevant with a home-grown (acquired?) storage product. The rest of the portfolio (other than maybe SVC) isn't in great shape, is it?
Man, I'd like to be a sales rep who's goaled on giving away "free" storage :-)
But Is It Really "Free"?
No one I talked to had actual pricing for the box. That's interesting, if you think about it. If it was all about saving money, you'd think that pricing would be part of the evaluation, wouldn't you? So it must not be about acquisition cost, otherwise there'd be features like virtual provisioning, et. al.
Operational savings? Barry over at The Storage Anarchist pointed to the, well, unusual power consumption characteristics of this beast. There's no spin-down for drives, so it can't be about efficient use of power.
Ease of use? No feature support for things like multipathing, performance isolation, replication, SRM, etc. -- so somewhere there's going to be some heavy lifting done by someone.
And, based on what people have told me, performance is adequate for some workloads, seriously slow in others -- certainly not what a DMX or a CX could deliver. So it ain't really about performance, either.
Definitely leaves me scratching my head as to where this box might fit in the grand scheme of things.
But what really struck me was opportunity cost for the customer.
Here these customers were, making time in their busy schedule to bring in some new thingie from IBM, make space for it, hook it up, run it through its paces, write up a report -- for what?
No one I talked to was really clear as to why they were investing in evaluating an entirely brand-new storage array -- no clear problem statement, no clear goals -- I guess they felt they owed IBM some freebie consulting or something.
That's mighty charitable of these IT groups, and they might have their reasons, but given the current economic uncertainty, but it left me scratching my head and wondering "why?"
Is It A Trap?
Now that I think about it, this could get ugly. Imagine a customer who puts one on the floor to evaluate it, and -- in a moment of desperation or inattention -- puts production data on the device.
Nobody was paying attention, and there you are. Now IBM comes calling for their box back, and you've got a choice as to whether to go ahead and sign the P.O., or migrate all your data off the thing. Maybe they'll sell you an SVC to do this?
Yuck. I bet that happens more than once. And I can't believe that IBM (or the folks at XIV) aren't aware of this potentially happening.
The textbook is still being written about what works and doesn't work in the storage marketplace.
The XIV experiment -- at least for me -- is about testing two theories:
1 -- Can any storage product be successful without some sort of clear positioning as to where it fits, and what it does better than other storage products?
2 -- Will the strategy of seeding customer data centers with "free evaluations" at massive scale actually translate into revenue and happy customers?
Or will it be that some customers say -- since the damn thing is there anyway -- why don't we just put the box to work?
We'll see, won't we?
Courteous comments welcome as always!