2011 appears to the year where everyone bunches up as they try to climb the mountain of storage efficiency and effectiveness. Premium features which were defining unique selling points will become common place and this will lead to some desperate measures to define uniqueness and market superiority.
I'd like to take a smaller and relatively unknown player in the storage market as example of how features which even last year were company defining could become rapidly common place; certainly if you are outside the world of media and working in a more traditional enterprise, I would be surprised if you had come across a company called Infortrend.
Infortrend make low to mid-range storage arrays which seem to turn up fairly often in media; often packaged as part of a vertical solutions, it is not a company you would really expect to tick all of the boxes with regards to the latest features. Yet if you look at their latest press release, you will find that they offer or are planning to offer over the next year
- Thin provisioning
- Automated Storage Tiering
- etc, etc...
So if even the smaller vendors are offering these features; what are the big boys going to have to do to try to differentiate their offerings? Vertical integration and partnerships with the other enterprise vendors such as VMware and Cisco is going to be one area where they can differentiate, their size makes the levels of investment required in these partnerships a lot easier. However sometimes, these smaller vendors such as Infortrend plough an interesting furrow by partnering with smaller niche application vendors who do not have the clout to get time with the bigger vendors. And before we count this out as a strategy; Isilon managed to grow at first as a niche company.
Management tools and automation are one place which needs continuing innovation and investment but interestingly enough, often the smaller vendors excel in ease-of-use out of necessity. Smaller sales-forces, smaller technical support teams and a channel-focused approach to market means that their systems must be easy to use, although they do often fall down on the scalable management and automation front.
Yet at the end of the day, it could well come down to a marketing war and marketing budgets.