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Overlooking hardware acquisition costs can and will hurt you

When evaluating the acquisition of storage software products, you must take into account the acquisition and TCO of the required hardware. Not doing so can be devastating to an IT budget.

When IT organizations evaluate the acquisition of storage software products, they usually pay very close attention to whether or not the software's functions meet the needs of the organization. They also look in depth at the total cost of ownership (TCO) of that software. Yet, far too often they ignore its hardware acquisition implications. This one simple oversight can be devastating to an IT budget while being career-fatal to the evaluation team.

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Take something as simple as a backup software comparison. If one vendor's backup software includes deduplication while another does not, and assuming all else is pretty much the same (including licensing, maintenance, subscription, features, etc.), which one really has the lowest TCO? Since the software package with deduplication will require on average 75% less storage than the one without deduplication, the answer should be obvious. But, what if the costs of the hardware storage were not taken into consideration during the evaluation? The backup software without deduplication could have been chosen, significantly driving up costs.

Another simple example is snapshot. If one software package provides ongoing incremental snapshots whereas another only provides ongoing full-volume snapshots, which software package has the lower TCO (again -- all else being equal)? Obviously, when hardware acquisition costs are considered, the software package that is limited to full-volume snapshots will end up having a much higher TCO.

These are simple examples to make the point easy to see. More often than not, it is not so simple to see. There are many aspects of storage software implementations that have significant implications on hardware acquisition. Organizations should examine what server and storage hardware is required for the software to implement high availability, as well as the number servers and storage required end-to-end in the software path.

Something as innocuous as software agents also drives up hardware acquisition costs because they use server, desktop or laptop cycles. Those cycles are unavailable for the applications and this means a more powerful CPU may be required to meet performance requirements. More powerful CPUs equal higher cost.

This issue of the software-driven hardware acquisition costs hit home for me last week. A large organization looking to back up hundreds of terabytes of data was considering two different software vendors. The hardware cost associated with one option was eight times as much as the other to perform the exact same function. And even though its licensing cost was a little less than the other vendor, it was readily apparent that there was no contest when comparing the true TCO. There is little doubt which vendor will win that business.

Every single storage software application has significant hardware cost implications that can often dwarf the TCO of the software itself. Failure to take this into account can put your organization and your career at risk.

About the author: Marc Staimer is president and CDS of Dragon Slayer Consulting in Beaverton, Oregon. He is widely known as one of the leading storage market analysts in the network storage and storage management industries. His consulting practice of six plus years provides consulting to the end-user and vendor communities.

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