Many of the vendor Storage Resource Management tools make claims of substantial return on investment (ROI) for users of their tools resulting in millions of dollars of savings in storage costs. Given the herd of lawyers many of these firms employ, I will assume that there are some facts behind the claims and that it is conceivably possible to achieve the type of savings they describe. How likely is it that a normal end user will achieve similar savings? Not very likely without an extremely high level of expertise these vendors assume the customer will acquire. Often those huge savings were achieved by bringing in the vendor’s professional services team with deep expertise to install, configure and optimize the system to get any kind of positive results. Alternatively, the customer could dedicate one of their IT administrators to learning and managing the tool full time with a 6 month learning curve. The obvious problem here is who can afford to invest that much time and effort into learning a vendor tool that in effect results in vendor lock in. Even worse, if you are the IT admin assigned to that task, why would you want to do that? It is like quitting a profitable job to get a degree in Latin – a lot of hard work to learn it then not a lot to do with it when you are done.
The Impacts of Doing More with Less
For years IT shops have been forced to do more with less. In many cases an IT administrator’s job today was probably two or three people’s jobs five years ago. VMware monitoring one minute, storage performance troubleshooting the next and storage capacity planner before lunch - an IT administrator has to wear a lot of hats. It makes no sense either for the company or the employee to lock themselves into big, complex SRM tools that require huge investment in time and skill just to acquire basic usability. For most software I use, within the first two to four hours, I will have learned probably 80% of the functionality that I will ultimately use in the software. That doesn’t mean that I won’t learn a new trick or explore a new function someday, but if I can’t get most of what I need in that timeframe the odds of me ever getting there goes way down. If a normal user can’t get 80% of what they need from an SRM tool in the first two to four hours, the software is on its way to becoming shelf-ware as there are just too many fires to fight to get dedicated time to just learn one niche product.
Easy to Use Doesn’t Mean Limited Capabilities
Somehow the large vendors have worked to propagate the myth that harder to use and impossible to install must mean that it is more powerful or scalable. That just isn’t true anymore, while SolarWinds was a pioneer in the easy-to-install, easy-to-use, try-before-you-buy approach to software many others have followed our lead to prove that “powerful” and “easy” can go together. Unless you are an IT equivalent to a “one-percenter” (i.e., you can’t live without the left hand, inverted widget support), how many storage admins can spend all their time on one siloed, complex tool? Probably about the same number as those of us that speak Latin.