This post is part of a sponsored Pure Storage blog post series. To learn more about Pure Storage, please visit purestorage.com.
In this fourth and last installment of our sponsored blog post series on Pure Storage and sustainability, we touch on new consumption models such as Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS), and how they enable organizations to deliver better outcomes, with more flexibility, and with an improved energy footprint.
What is Storage-as-a-Service
With the growth of cloud services, organizations have become acquainted with cloud-like consumption models, and the ability to use various storage categories with different performance, capacity, and cost characteristics.
Storage-as-a-Service is a consumption model that follows public cloud principles and allows organizations to consume storage capabilities literally “as a service”. Ideally, a STaaS offering should offer flexible, bidirectional scalability (upwards and downwards), and the ability to consume storage classes with different performance characteristics. At the same time, the solution’s architecture should be transparent to the user and managed by the vendor providing the STaaS offering.
STaaS: Not Just Another OpEx Offering
A variety of reasons may drive organizations to adopt STaaS over OpEx consumption models. When selecting OpEx over CapEx, organizations are looking for financial optimization. This can be either offsetting the initial high cost of a CapEx purchase and splitting it over a longer period or moving from an investment cost charge to an operational expense for internal financial reasons. By selecting CapEx or OpEx, there is no significant operational improvement in how storage services are delivered.
Although STaaS may appear similar to OpEx from a financial standpoint, the desired outcome is not financial optimization but increased operational efficiency instead. Storage is delivered as a service, just like a public cloud service: there is no need to manage the infrastructure, or to care about its scalability. What matters is that storage capacity is available and gets delivered within the established performance and availability service level agreements.
The end goal for adopting STaaS is to focus on delivering value and not managing infrastructure.
Environmental Impact of STaaS
In our previous articles, we have covered technical and architectural enablers for sustainable IT environments. Any STaaS solution’s environmental footprint derives from the hardware architecture the solution is built upon. In the case of Pure Storage, we have comprehensively covered this topic across several blog posts.
Nevertheless, it is important to recapitulate on some of these key points to understand the foundational components for a sustainable STaaS offering.
Flash Native Architecture
At performance parity, the hardware must be more efficient from a capacity and energy footprint standpoint. This means capacity-dense, space-efficient appliances, with a higher capacity/watt ratio, and therefore a lower energy footprint compared to retrofitted architectures that rely on standard flash modules.
Increased efficiency can be achieved by better use of flash through hardware and software data reduction mechanisms, and the use of flash-optimized hardware (higher integration between components). Innovations such as capacity dense DFMs, a global distributed flash translation layer, and core data services for compression and deduplication play a key role in enabling foundational layers of a modern STaaS offering.
Finally, modern architectures that enable continuous, non-disruptive hardware upgrades provide better outcomes to both consumers and the STaaS provider. Looking at Pure Storage, non-disruptive upgrades do not impact business operations and allow Pure Storage to maintain optimal adherence to availability SLAs. On the other hand, the modular nature of those modern architectures also allows Pure Storage to prolong hardware life and thus reduce e-waste, an outcome beneficial not only to Pure Storage and its customers, but also the environment.
In the context of a sustainable approach, organizations must also evaluate the overall sustainability of the suppliers, which goes beyond the hardware platform itself. This is particularly true for businesses that may be required to deliver ESG audits to regulatory bodies.
Elastic Scalability: Matching Use vs. Need
In CapEx or OpEx-based offerings, the hardware needs to be procured and deployed upfront, even if full capacity will only be reached after a few years. From the initial deployment, the storage arrays will consume a base amount of power regardless of the actual capacity usage. It will also generate a finite amount of heat that will subsequently need to be dissipated and cooled, driving inefficiencies and waste of resources from day 1.
Elastic scalability is a core tenet of STaaS. Instead of provisioning capacity upfront, STaaS allows enterprises to start with a base capacity and evolve consumption according to their needs, both upwards and downwards. AIOps solutions like Pure1 Meta can accurately model capacity demand requirements, leading to timely addition of storage resources. This model ensures storage consumption, and the correlated energy footprint are right-sized and sustainable, providing an environmental-effective approach. To measure the energy footprint and energy efficiency, organizations are looking at effective capacity per watt. STaaS offerings should come with a control plane such as Pure1 to allow customers to measure this metric across their storage fleet and thus accurately assess their energy efficiency.
Vendors that truly believe in their power efficiency are willing to pay the customer for the power consumption of their systems in the customer’s datacenter. For example, Pure Storage’s EverGreen //One offering includes a paid power & rack commitment from the vendor.
When evaluating STaaS offerings, organizations should carefully look for a flash native architecture that enables continuous operations and delivers elastic scalability. Retrofitted architectures will not be optimized from an energy efficiency footprint and will likely not enable continuous operations either. The other important aspect is around scalability: STaaS offerings often do not include downwards scalability (reduction of the footprint).
Finally, commitment requirements need to be carefully analyzed: STaaS offerings where minimum capacity commitment and duration terms are high are more likely to be a disguised OpEx offering under the cool hood of a STaaS service. Customers must be vigilant and look out for exit fees, which are usually expensive and designed to lock customers in. Such fees can force customers to keep their solution online longer than expected, at an increased financial and environmental cost.
Abstracting Storage Tiers with STaaS
The ability to provide different storage classes (with different performance and capacity characteristics) is essential when consuming Storage as a Service.
Pure Storage can support a large spectrum of workloads, covering block, file, and object storage through a variety of appliances:
- Performance intensive (FlashArray //XL, FlashBlade //S 500)
- Balanced efficiency (FlashArray //X, FlashBlade //S200)
- Capacity oriented (FlashArray //C and //E, FlashBlade //E)
Even though products are clearly differentiated, finding the right appliance model and sizing can be a daunting task. Pure Evergreen//One provides a simple service catalog for block, file, and object services, with sample use cases and other metrics to easily determine which services are the most appropriate for each organization’s needs.
Organizations can further automate operations by integrating storage provisioning and STaaS with Pure Fusion, a Storage-as-Code capability that allows developers to consume volumes, file systems, and advanced data services through APIs, and thus effectively extend the benefits of STaaS to ther internal customers, in a self-service manner.
In this article, we have covered STaaS offerings by highlighting what sets STaaS apart from traditional CapEx offerings. Thanks to its scalable and flexible nature coupled with cloud economics, STaaS can play a significant role in an organization’s sustainability strategy.
To deliver these outcomes, the STaaS offering must be built on a modern flash native architecture that was itself designed to be environmentally efficient. By providing storage capacity that closely meets actual demand, organizations can significantly optimize their sustainability metrics in terms of power, cooling, and GHG emissions.
To learn more about flexible, agile, and energy efficient STaaS, please visit https://www.purestorage.com/products/staas/evergreen/one.html.