IT Brand Pulse Compiles Cost of Eight Online Archive Storage Solutions and Uncovers Some Surprising Results

SAN DIEGO, CA — January 17, 2017— IT Brand Pulse, a trusted source of research, testing and analysis about data center infrastructure, today announced the results of a total cost of ownership study. The analysis includes three traditional SAN solutions from EMC, IBM, and NetApp, in an apples-to-apples comparison with five software-defined storage solutions from DataCore, Red Hat, Scality, SUSE and VMware. The study examined the cost of hardware, software and support for 250TB of storage, growing 25% per year, and used to store infrequently accessed data in an online archive.

“As expected, software-defined storage deployed on industry standard servers emerged as the lowest cost solution” said Frank Berry, senior analyst and founder, IT Brand Pulse. “Surprisingly, two of the three most expensive solutions were also software defined storage solutions.”

Highlights of the Study:

  • Dell EMC, as expected, offered the most expensive storage solution for our bulk storage requirement.
  • Red Hat, VMware and DataCore—traditional enterprise software vendors—ranked #2 through #4 for most expensive solutions. I was not surprised by the costs of the VMware and DataCore solutions, but I experienced sticker-shock over the pricing of the Red Hat Ceph solution. I expected a price comparable to the SUSE version of Ceph software, not a price similar to premium-priced solutions from EMC, VMware and DataCore.
  • SUSE emerged as the value leader with best-in-class pricing for software licensing and support. Their product also includes CephFS which is not yet available from Red Hat.
  • IBM was the price leader for disk array solutions and only slightly higher than the lowest cost solutions from Scality and SUSE.

5 Year TCO Case Study: 250TB Growing 25% Per Year

TCO case studies are designed to provide busy IT Pros with vendor-independent data about the total cost of specific products. This case study examines eight comparably-equipped enterprise storage solutions: four from various disk array vendors, and four from software-defined storage vendors. It turns out one of the vendors stands-out with lower TCO based on industry standard hardware and attractively priced software licenses with support included.

Requirement for this TCO Analysis: Online Archive for Unstructured Data – The application for the systems evaluated in this report is storing large quantities of infrequently accessed data. Examples of applications which use mass storage are backup, archive, and replication for disaster recovery. In all cases, the data must be online and highly available. Other names for this application are “bulk storage” and “nearline storage.”

Growth of Large Unstructured Data

The chart above shows that by 2017, 85% of data will be unstructured data, most of which is infrequently accessed. As a result, one of the biggest challenges for enterprise storage architects is migrating from proprietary, transaction-oriented disk arrays, which are expensive. The destination is more cost-effective software-defined storage which leverages open-source software and industry standard server hardware.


Cost Components

Below are the components used to calculate the total cost of owning mass storage over a five-year period:
Hardware Product Cost – The purchase price for storage array chassis, servers and HDDs.
Recurring Software License Fees – Annual license fees for software, if applicable.
Recurring Annual Service & Support Fees – The cost of a service agreement providing on-site service and spare parts, with next business day response time.
Training – The cost of certifying one network engineer for this class of product (not applicable in this report).
Spare Parts – The cost of on-site spare power supplies and SFPs (not applicable in this report).
Total Cost of Ownership – The sum of the hardware product cost, software license fees, service and support fees, training, and spare parts over a five-year period.

Getting the Cost Data
The product pricing (cost) data used in this case study comes from on-line resellers and solution providers who responded to a request for quote (RFQ) from IT Brand Pulse.

Apples-to-Apples Comparison
The hardware, software and service products used in this case study all met the requirements specified in the RFQ.  Differences in the products and services are described in the product overviews.

The Storage Systems

Storage architects and administrators are now faced with three distinctly different classes of storage solutions to evaluate: 1) cloud storage-as-a-service, 2) traditional hardware disk array, and 3) software-defined storage apps which run on industry-standard servers. This report examines four disk array systems and four software-defined storage systems, including software server hardware from Supermicro.

Entry-level disk arrays were utilized because they met the performance, availability and useable capacity requirements of the online archive application evaluated in this report. If, instead, performance-oriented mid-range or high-end storage arrays were used, the five-year TCO would have been significantly higher.

Dozens of features could have been added to all the configurations to enhance the performance (SSD), availability (replication) and useable capacity (compression and dedup). But a simple storage configuration met our report’s requirements for bulk storage, which is infrequently accessed.


5 Year TCO Numbers

Dell EMC Unity 300 – Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $330,865
The Unity 300 may be Dell EMC’s most affordable array, but that is like saying the C-Class is Mercedes’s most affordable car starting at $40,000. In addition, this system is not optimized for bulk storage. You can scale but with only fifteen 6TB drives per chassis, this results in the need for at least 1 new chassis every year.

Red Hat Ceph Storage – Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $328,847
The low-cost hardware foundation used for Red Hat Ceph Storage is exactly the same as the configuration used for other software-defined storage solutions in this analysis. The result of the capacity-based software pricing model is the second most expensive solution for our requirement.

VMware VSAN – Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $258,151
If support was included in the price of the software license—like it is with some other software-defined storage products—Virtual SAN would scale cost effectively. But it’s not; and the result is the cost of support exceeds the cost of the base product over a five year period.

DataCore SAN Symphony – Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $245,824
DataCore software is offers industry-leading performance for database/transaction processing workloads, and is priced accordingly.  The storage capacity-based licenses add-up over the 5-year period to make SANsymphony the 4th most expensive solution we evaluated.

NetApp FAS2554 – Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $211,534
NetApp FAS2554 gets top marks for ease-of-use and for offering high-density configurations which should make scaling mass storage cost effective. But customers are asked to pay a hefty premium for the NetApp brand. For example, add-on 8TB drives for a NetApp FAS2554 can run well over $2,000 — over four times the cost of add-on drives for industry-standard servers supporting software-defined storage.

IBM v5010 – Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $195,458
If our application needed the additional features rolled into the v5010, this product might represent the best value for the money. But for our application—which requires the most capacity for the lowest cost—software-defined storage solutions are the ones to beat.

Scality RING – Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $193,384
The solution from Scality is the second, best-priced solution we examined. The difference between Scality, and price leader SUSE, was the cost of support. It’s also worth noting the cost of Scality software is entirely front loaded, while the cost of SUSE software is spread out evenly over the five-year period.

SUSE Enterprise Storage 4 – Five-Year Cost of Ownership: $149,408
SUSE offers several layers of cost savings to enterprise storage IT professionals. The foundation is industry standard hardware. Layered on top, is storage software with comparatively low annual license fees spread out over the life of your storage. Finally, support is included in the cost of the software license.  For applications generating a lot of data, SUSE Enterprise Storage 4 scales capacity but not cost.

Discovery #1: Software-Defined Storage Eliminates Branded Storage Taxes

IT organizations have shown a strong preference for branded storage. Everyone knows they’re paying a tax for the EMC or NetApp logo, but because they deployed the “Mercedes of storage arrays”, they also figure they won’t get fired when something goes wrong. This branded storage tax is applied to every disk drive a customer purchases during the life of the system, and is as much as 4x the cost of HDDs used in industry-standard servers and software-defined storage systems.


Discovery #2: SUSE is the Price Leader for Bulk Storage

The chart below shows a side-by-side comparison of eight bulk storage solutions based on pricing provided by the manufacturers or their channel partners. The clear price leader for this class of solution was SUSE Enterprise Storage 4.


Discovery #3: The Future is Software-Defined Storage

The data in this report indicates that traditional enterprise storage is under tremendous price pressure from software-defined storage available from vendors like SUSE.

This report also reveals that Red Hat and VMware are positioning the price of their software-defined storage offerings at parity with traditional (expensive) enterprise storage solutions.

The bottom line? IT organizations looking to lower the cost of archived data should evaluate software-defined storage solutions. Based on easy-to-service x86 servers, the technology is proven by hyperscale public cloud providers and can be deployed in private clouds for 1/3 the cost of branded storage.

About IT Brand Pulse and the Author
IT Brand Pulse is a trusted source of research, data and analysis about private, public and hybrid cloud IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, networking and operating platforms. Learn more at

Frank Berry is founder and senior analyst for IT Brand Pulse. As former vice president of product marketing and corporate marketing for QLogic, and vice president of worldwide marketing for the automated tape library (ATL) division of Quantum, Mr. Berry has over 30 years of experience in the development and marketing of IT infrastructure. If you have any questions or comments about this study, contact [email protected].

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