Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett Packard Enterprise sees an opportunity for economical all-flash storage arrays in the SMB market. So do Nimble Storage Inc., of San Jose, Calif., and IBM, of Armonk, N.Y. Are they on to something or smoking something?
We figured we’d find out by asking about it on our latest reader survey. And judging by the answers we got from poll respondents who sell storage arrays, it looks like there’s not much of a market for all-flash storage hardware at the moment:
Indeed, all-flash arrays account for 5 percent or less of total storage shipments for slightly over a third of you, and for 10 percent or less for fully 62 percent of you.
That, however, begs a kind of chicken-and-egg question: Have our readers been selling all-flash storage devices in low numbers because vendors haven’t been offering products that SMBs can afford, or have vendors not been offering all-flash products suitable for SMBs until recently because there’s little need for them?
According to Greg Schulz, founder and senior advisor at analyst firm Server StorageIO and UnlimitedIO LLC, of Stillwater, Minnesota, the answer is both.
“It’s a little bit of a mixed bag,” he says. “Some of the vendors have been very late to the game with smaller all-flash solutions.” On the other hand, he continues, relatively few SMBs really require the power and performance an all-flash array offers currently.
“Not everyone needs, wants, or can afford a Tesla or a Porsche,” Schulz observes. They might want one, but something a little more practical for getting the kids to school and groceries home is usually a better choice. That better choice in the SMB storage realm at present is typically a hybrid array combining flash drives with good old-fashioned hard disks.
“That’s the home run right now,” Schulz says.
Still, with data volumes and the need for speed growing even among smaller businesses, the picture is likely to look different soon, he adds. “Hybrid” storage arrays will still be the sweet spot for SMB storage a couple of years from now, but only in the sense that popular models will combine pricey, high-speed flash drives with less expensive, high-capacity flash drives.
Seen in that light, the recent HPE, IBM, and Nimble all-flash product launches start to look more like early jockeying for position in a small market that’s poised to grow large shortly.