When Space, Time & Vendor Charges Collide…

Well the whole snapshot and replication thing got me thinking about vendor licensing. Licensing is a way to get a return on one’s R&D, it doesn’t really matter whether customers pay x for hardware and y for software, or x+y for the hardware ‘solution’ and zero for software functions etc, as long as the vendor gets the return it needs to keep its investors happy.

Vendor charges are like taxes, most of us appreciate that they are needed, but there are many different ways to levy the tax: e.g. flat tax rate, progressive, regressive, goods and services (GST/VAT/SalesTax).

I suspect that charging large licence fees for snapshot and replication functions has held IT back and IMHO the time has now come to set these functions free.

Tax is an alternative to a strict user-pays system. We all pay taxes in New Zealand so that good quality healthcare is free to everyone for example. So maybe instead of charging the few, large amounts of dosh for advanced functions, vendors should amortize that income across all their customers and set the advanced functions free to help drive productivity out in the world. Yeah I’m a bloody socialist : )

As well as this, there is the issue of double-dipping. If I charge a whole lot of money for replication software, and by definition the customer needs to buy a second system for their DR site, then to achieve their DR I have just zinged them twice or 3 times. The same goes for snapshots, the customer needs to buy more disk space to make use of these, so by charging for the snaps function I sting them twice, and ironically make it much less likely that they will use snaps and buy the extra disk. You get the picture. It’s a double-dip all around and it’s stifling innovation in how we manage our data.

I love to do quick guesstimates of the state of play between vendors, so here’s another one (feel free to advise me of any corrections/additions):

  • IBM’s XIV and SONAS both include snaps and replication as part of the base software licence.
  • DS8000, SVC and ProtecTIER all treat replication as big ticket items. Ditto snaps, although SVC Entry Edition bundles in snaps at zero charge, while DS3500/5000 have small charges for snaps and replication.
  • Dell’s Equallogic and LeftHand’s iSCSI systems both include the advanced functions in the base offering, but HP’s EVA charges for both.
  • Netapp have long made snapshots ‘free’, unless you want them writable (FlexClone). Expect to pay significant charges for SnapMirror replication as you go up the controller range.
  • You can also expect to pay for snaps and replication on EMC CLARiiON and VMAX, and HDS AMS and USP.

Some of the newer products like SONAS and XIV and Equallogic and LeftHand are setting the pace here… and I think it’s time for the others to get in behind. Snaps and Replication are now de rigueur and my prediction is that products that over-charge for those functions will slowly fade from relevance out in the market.

Evolution is calling with a message for us all.

Sort out your feature licensing or die.


5 Responses

  1. As much as I wish it wasn’t so, vendor pricing will always have the same task.

    “The task is to extract the maximum amount of milk with the minimum amount of moo.”


  2. Good thought provoking blog entry!

    I like your Enders Game cartoon (interesting to know how many people get the reference).


  3. Jim,

    Ive always believed that technologies such as XIV, SONAS, EQL, LeftHand etc are a licensing dream because they are desparate to gain market share. These are all relatively new technologies trying to look as appealing as possible to prospective new customers. My fear is that eventually these will start looking more and more like the rest – once the hooks are in they will start slipping charges in for new features :-S

    I imagine by the time Storwize gets integrated into XIV it will be a chargable feature over an above the base cost of the XIV… Time will tell



    • I don’t think so. With XIV for example it’s a philosophical thing about getting people to use the software functions. Across the range I expect we will see more and more that features will be included in a broader software licence rather than charged for separately. Vendors have run two profit recovery models for storage, one is to charge high prices for disks that are essentially commodity items, and the other has been to charge high licence prices for individual software features. Both models are just about spent in my opinion. Yes some kind of licensing is needed to make storage systems profitable, but it doesn’t need to be function by function.


  4. IBM’s biggest issue to me is licensing charges. There are others out there stealing customers at renewal time. I’m also not a huge fan of TB-based pricing.

    Making copys and mirrors free would do wonders for the world. It would also cause them to be used. It may not be desirable for everyone to start using it, exposing limitations on some copy on write infrastructures.

    I do believe the floodgates should open though. More competition needs to lead the way.


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