Evan Powell (Asia) - OpenStorage: United States Lagging Behind Asian Telecoms

Anyone who spends enough time in Asia can tell you that the region is far ahead of the United States when it comes to the faster, cheaper, and commoditized technologies that are powering carrier- and enterprise-based clouds. Storage is no exception.

High-performance computing (HPC) and virtualization are creating demand for new storage architectures that cannot be met by expensive and proprietary storage from EMC or NetApp. The economies of scale won't work in a cloud environment. Instead, Asian companies are turning to OpenStorage-industry-standard hardware and open software-as the underlying storage infrastructure in clouds. For example, telecom KT already is powering Asia's largest public cloud using OpenStorage. It's less expensive, easy to implement, and offers equal, if not better, performance.

Yet while companies in Asia are jumping into OpenStorage as an obvious way to increase ROI and compete with rivals, the United States drags behind.

Innovate or Die-The Rise of ODMs

With growth and consolidation, many Asian market leaders of the 1970s and 1980s have evolved into original design manufacturers (ODMs), providing innovative products to global technology service providers. Where once these ODMs only dealt with the manufacturing end of the business, today, they innovate, design, and manufacture hardware components.

The pace of innovation has not slowed, and new avenues for cutting-edge products have grown considerably, especially for service providers and, so too, for storage providers. Key to the rapid expansion of data storage solutions has been the adoption of OpenStorage software running on industry standard hardware. With a new wave of storage providers building upon this foundation, storage technology finally has caught up with need.

Asian telecom markets have shown a greater aptitude to OpenStorage adoption than American companies. And the reasons are oh, so obvious. The telecoms are geographically close to the ODMs and have greater and quicker access to their products. In addition, OpenStorage is cheaper to use and easier to implement. When KT (Korea Telecom) priced out storage costs, it found that traditional storage providers, such as Amazon, were charging about 10 cents a gigabyte. For the Asian market, this cost was too high. KT needed a different approach from that provided by legacy vendors. OpenStorage was the solution.

With OpenStorage, KT was able to quickly scale in a cost-efficient manner while cutting down administrative oversight (fewer IT-dedicated personnel), thereby incurring even greater cost controls and providing a more competitive price to performance ratio for its customers.

KT now is capable of expanding to more than 576 terabytes of raw storage capacity. It has improved end-to-end data integrity and found affordable scalability. The long-term, flexible solution provides limitless growth potential in handling KT's expanding customer base. Internally, multiple systems, using commodity hardware, are consolidated for increased speed and reduced costs.

The Road Ahead

Non-traditional service providers (think of Google or Facebook) have laid the groundwork for service providers and ODMs in Asia to build technologies on OpenStorage. At the same time, traditional N. American service providers (think of AT&T or SunGard) have not adopted OpenStorage and continue to rely on more costly legacy systems, which provide less flexibility, are locked in to proprietary hardware, and scale only at a very high cost. Doing business with these companies is not getting cheaper. Storage with them is not easier. And scaling to company growth creates extreme problems in staffing, hardware, security, and cost.

At the same time, with the ongoing consolidation of major storage providers, ODMs have embraced diversification not only to survive, but to grow and flourish. This has produced the biggest breakthroughs in storage technology in decades: new players (ODMs) in a once tight marketplace creating solution-specific hardware, ordered to spec, from some of the largest organizations in the world (again, think Google).

Aggressively seeking technical innovations, Asian service providers are transforming the marketplace with lower costs, better service, and storage solutions that meet the needs of companies of all sizes. Price per performance ratios are dropping year to year. And in the storage sector, as hardware-agnostic solutions move into the mainstream, we are seeing greater flexibility, with ever-improving functionalities, and far better cost controls.

The overall 3-5 year prediction for OpenStorage is clear: Once value has been verified, American and European telecoms will be quick to follow. And close behind will be the enterprise customers.

By Evan Powell, CEO, Nexenta Systems



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