This blog was also written by Rahul Shah

As digital transformation efforts pick up steam, organizations are prioritizing simplicity and flexibility in their procurement decisions more than ever. This means finding ways to avoid upfront capital expense, overprovisioning, disruptive maintenance and upgrades, expensive migrations, downtime and waste that increase storage complexity and risk and reduce ROI.

The concept of as-a-service for on-premises infrastructure has surged in popularity in recent years. A recent Gartner reports reveals that by 2025, more than 70% of corporate, enterprise-grade storage capacity will be deployed as consumption-based offerings—up from less than 40% in 2021. 

However, not all storage as-a-service offerings are created equal. Given the critical importance of data storage, here are five questions to ask before signing up for any storage-as-a-service offering:

1. Am I Buying Products or Outcomes?

Buying on-premises storage hardware or software requires you to become familiar with vendor brands and products, as well as with various performance and scaling requirements. You need to do your homework to know what to expect when the system is delivered.

When buying storage as-a-service, however, you are buying outcomes. They include the following:

  • Storage type (block, file, object)
  • Workload performance 
  • Consumed capacity
  • Subscription term (ideally, from one to five years)

Tip: Beware of vendors selling technical specifications vs. outcomes. Real storage as-a-service should align with and complement your data strategy. It should free up time and resources spent managing the storage infrastructure so that you can focus on what matters to your business.

2. What Are the Differences Between SLAs and SLOs?

Public cloud customers are familiar with service-level agreements (SLAs)—the commitments to availability and, sometimes, performance levels. SLAs are the legal agreements we make with our customers on measurable metrics like uptime, capacity, and performance. They’re our commitment backed by a guarantee specifically included in the service contract. SLAs include not just remediation of the issue, but defined consequences in the form of service credits. You can review Pure Storage® Evergreen//OneSLAs to understand what clear SLA obligations look like. 

Service-level objectives (SLOs) are target service objectives typically set higher than the committed SLA but are not contractual commitments. They are goals that we strive to meet or exceed when you use our service.

Tip: Make sure the vendor is putting money where their mouth is. Get specific numbers. Many vendors will offer “best effort” or “commercially reasonable” SLOs, but real SLAs need commitments and penalties for not meeting them. Real SLAs should be clear and transparent, that you can monitor and visualize for yourself.

3. How Do I Upgrade and Refresh Software and Hardware? Will That Cause an Outage?

The question you really should ask is “What good are SLAs if you have to schedule a ‘Change and Maintenance Window’?” Change and Maintenance Window means coordinated downtime for the vendor to perform any technical changes or maintenance to the equipment (i.e. patches, upgrades, refresh, third-party vendor updates, etc.). If your uptime is exclusive of planned downtime, that is no SLA at all! 

A modern cloud-like storage service should never require “planned downtime” or require outage windows to perform routine software, hardware upgrades and maintenance. For example, Pure always puts you in control with the ability to execute upgrades through Pure1 at a time convenient for you. 

Tip: Make sure that routine updates/upgrades do not require planned or scheduled downtime to be coordinated with the vendor. Do not accept any compromises to the SLAs.

4. Am I Only Paying for What I Consume?

By paying for only what you use, you get a better handle on budgeting and forecasting and avoid the risk and cost of overprovisioning. You should also be able to expand reserve commitments to meet your business needs or further optimize costs without penalties of contract extension. And, you should always be able to measure and track your consumption. 

If the storeage as-a-service vendor gives you pay-as-you-go consumption payment terms, but you still have to deal with day-2 operations, that is not a real storage as-a-service experience. At Pure Storage, we provide end-to-end monitoring using AIOps to proactively detect and fix issues before they impact your business, and our upgrades are always non-disruptive. Our support and customer teams are dedicated to making you successful. In fact, more than half of our service tickets are proactively created by Pure and resolved without any effort from the customer.

Another factor that can impact your total cost of ownership is the power, cooling and e-waste you have to deal with. Our Evergreen architecture already eliminates the industry’s traditional method of upgrading storage by replacing and junking existing systems. However, Evergreen//One takes it to the next level where Pure Storage takes on the responsibility of upgrading and reusing hardware so that you do not have to worry about e-waste at all. And what’s more, by only deploying capacity you need and right-sizing the equipment, you reduce the energy and space requirements in your data center. 

Tip: Pricing should be transparent and fair. Don’t be misled by differing pricing terms, for example, for co-terminus and non co-terminus capacity expansions. Additionally, always confirm that a minimum capacity commitment is required independent of a vendor’s metering method. Since cost efficiency is perhaps the biggest driver for storage as-a-service, also pay attention to time, effort and e-waste associated with the entire lifecycle of your storage infrastructure. 

5. Will you Monitor My Consumption and Automatically Ship Additional Capacity at a Defined Capacity Threshold?

With Evergreen//One, we ship the hardware necessary to keep you whole on the performance and capacity requirements. Our Pure1 analytics continuously monitor your infrastructure so that we can proactively resolve any performance or capacity issues. 

Tip: Service continuity is a critical attribute of any as-a-Service offering. Available storage capacity is the key metric to ensure continuity. Ask the vendor if they will monitor your consumption level and proactively deliver additional capacity at a pre-defined utilization threshold.

Raise the Bar with Pure Storage

Transformation is all about marrying operational innovation with technical innovation to improve efficiency and productivity, and Pure Storage Evergreen//One Storage as a Service (STaaS) can deliver both. 

True STaaS changes the storage management game entirely by bringing agility and simplicity to data operations. Leveraging AIOps, true STaaS makes underlying data infrastructure complexity invisible—eliminating the burden of day-to-day storage administration across the service lifecycle. And it enables IT teams to focus on business outcomes instead of infrastructure. 

Since 2017, Pure Storage has pioneered the cloud operating model for mission-critical on-premises enterprise storage to solve the challenges of traditional storage with Evergreen//One. It’s designed to deliver elastic, efficient and effortless storage as a service, and eliminate the complexity and cost associated with storage procurement, deployment, administration and support. And, it comes with industry-leading SLAs that ensure your storage service will deliver 99.9999% uptime, capacity and performance for your critical data and applications.  

Download the 2022 Strategic Roadmap for Storage report for more STaaS insights and learn more about Evergreen//One.