The do-it-all storage giant is dying: Clouds loom over on-prem IT

EMC highlights the problems all face

Huge Clouds Ocean

Comment The days of the massive standalone storage company are coming to a close, as the public cloud and myriad storage startups drive cumulatively fatal wounds deep into the heart of the one-supplier-does-all-your-storage business model.

The all-you-need, best-of-breed storage supplier days are ending as enterprises realize they can get better or cheaper or simpler or more integrated storage, or several of these attributes, by revolutionizing their on-premises storage and moving some or all of it to the public cloud.

All mainstream storage suppliers are affected though, not just the stand-alone ones.

Traditional, on-premises storage costs and over-consumption of limited enterprise IT resources are being seen as unbearable yet fixable problems, with the fixes tearing the heart out of traditional, mainstream, on-premises enterprise IT suppliers' businesses.

The idea of EMC merging with HP or Dell or selling its VNX line to Dell is only the latest manifestation of this.

A problem for these suppliers is that many changes are going on at once, some short-term and some long-term or secular. The biggest secular change is the rise of the public cloud with three giants emerging: Amazon, Azure (Microsoft), and Google. Each is reporting growing customer usage of their clouds for compute and for storage.

There are vertical application clouds as well, such as and, much lower down the scale, ambitious file sharers like Dropbox and Box.


Snapshot overview of on-premises and off-premises IT supplier situation

Some of this public cloud-use is cloud-bursting – the temporary use of the public cloud for one-off, short-term needs – but the rest is pretty permanent. Most customers intend to carry on using it and no longer have on-premises IT resources for their CRM-type applications.

That is the simple public cloud threat; on-premises IT is hollowed out, leaving desktop, laptop, and hand-held endpoints behind, accessing remote, in-cloud IT resources. Off-premises IT is not supplied by mainstream, on-premises IT suppliers. But this is extreme and will take years to come to pass, if it does, with on-premises IT being a multi-billion dollar market for decades yet.

In the on-premises storage area, there are many many changes too, some of them totally focused on-premises, such as the move to all-flash arrays, a trend to detach storage software from hardware, newer hybrid arrays with much better software, and converged and hyper-converged server hardware and software/storage/networking systems.

But these replace legacy products in what is looking like a slowly growing pool – the on-premises IT market. As the myriad storage startups grow, they will eventually face the same problem as the mainstream suppliers are facing now: the business system they pitched for last year has either gone to the public cloud or to a newer start-up technology and the opportunity has vanished.

Once the startups have collectively taken all the business they can from the existing vendors, and exist in a state of stable competition with them and their uprated product (think EMC and XtremIO, for example), then they could be playing public cloud musical chairs.

The chairs are business applications, and each time the music stops another application has gone to the cloud and there are fewer chairs (sales opportunities) for the suppliers, so someone has to leave the game.

For suppliers, the judgements they have to make include asking which changes coming are most severe for me? How fast are they coming? What is the impact on my business?

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