The Importance of the Partner Ecosystem in Your Storage Solution - InformationWeek
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Will McGrath
Will McGrath
Partner Perspectives

The Importance of the Partner Ecosystem in Your Storage Solution

Relying on a vendor that appreciates and fuels the symbiotic relationship between upstream and downstream communities can pay strong dividends to those investing in today's storage solutions.

“Choice” is one of the most sought-after values in IT management. Most IT managers want to create and maintain agile environments where they can quickly flex and change to adapt to the emerging needs of their business. 

Choice, however, can be a double-edged sword. While in one way it cuts through delay and inertia to enable great responsiveness, in another way it can easily demand more resources, which often means additional expense.

It Takes an Ecosystem... or two

One of the challenges of having choice comes in knowing what exactly to choose to match your specific requirements.

There are two traditional paths towards choosing how to build an effective storage solution for your organization.  The first is to evaluate the storage appliance vendors who are prevalent in the market. Each offers its own “comprehensive” solution including the software, the hardware, the firmware, the utilities, and the operations support.

The challenge comes when you want to do something different, something that ventures off what a shrink-wrapped appliance offers. You’re “locked-in” to that vendor now that you’ve made substantial investments in its products. You have few or no choices, and any choices you do have may be extremely expensive.

Software-Defined-Storage and Open Source

The second path is to leverage the open source ecosystem.  This open ecosystem includes a variety of communities, each of which contributes significantly to the core solution. These communities, in turn, consist of multiple resources from which to choose, and they are not mutually exclusive. You can choose the distribution of open software.  You can choose the server hardware. In the storage example, you can even choose from among a plethora of component manufacturers (networking, SSD, etc.) and application software vendors needed to “round out” the solution.

Entering the Open World of Choice

From the perspective of Red Hat, we see communities that are “upstream” and “downstream” of us.

Upstream is the open collaborative community where software is developed. Major manufacturers of processors, hardware components, software, even online service providers, all contribute to the development effort, participating in various projects alongside customers and others who have made significant contributions to the vast quantity of open source software that is available today. These contributions extend the size of the developer community working on exciting new features and capabilities. They also increase the innovation because you rely on the varied interests of an extended team of developers rather than a single vendor’s R&D resources.  As examples, Intel has submitted significantly to a number of tuning and performance efforts in the upstream code, while Outscale, a French IaaS cloud company, contributes heavily to work in the RADOS Gateway (RGW).

Downstream are the various vendors that “productize” the software, thus creating business value for users.  Red Hat has built its business on providing predictable and stable product distributions of open source technology. This type of value is particularly keen for two software defined storage offerings, Ceph and Gluster whose production customers rely on stability, including the hardware it runs on. Indeed, great software without equally comparable hardware is like one hand clapping. For that matter, the entire downstream ecosystem needs to be robust. Red Hat’s software-defined storage ecosystem includes storage server manufacturers such as Cisco, Supermicro and QCT, who work with Red Hat to optimize, tune and provide guidance on how best to run open, software defined storage on clusters of their servers. It also includes SSD component manufacturers and networking vendors which contribute expertise and best practices for certain types of Ceph and Gluster workloads such as high IOPS or high throughput.  And Independent Software Vendors (ISV) provide complementary features or provide the actual applications that customers deploy, such as data reduction, file sync and share, backup / archive, and more.

Your First Choice

Your organization may already have the expertise and/or the time to evaluate all the participating hardware and software vendors in the upstream community, in which case you are ready to explore and create great solutions. 

If not, you have the option of turning to a vendor with a robust upstream and downstream ecosystem for help.  Red Hat is focused as an open source company on building a robust downstream ecosystem.  We have performed extensive testing and evaluation with many of the hardware and software vendors – and the wealth of performance and sizing reference architectures produced collaboratively by Red Hat and partners give credence to this experience (See: Leveraging Open Source Reference Architectures Allows You To Give And Take From Broader Expertise).  Red Hat has also begun building out a reseller integration channel trained to deploy the storage solutions based on Red Hat Ceph Storage and Red Hat Gluster Storage that are well-suited for specific business needs.

Working with you to scope the requirements and specifications for your storage solution, Red Hat taps into its experience and knowledge base to help you navigate through its many available resources to arrive at the best choices for you.

To make this first choice, simply contact a local Red Hat sales professional. Open the door to open source.

Will McGrath is the Partner Marketing manager for Red Hat's Storage business unit. Prior to Red Hat, Will worked at Quantum and HP for 12 years as Strategic Alliances manager for Media & Entertainment technology partners. Will has over 30 years experience in the IT industry. ... View Full Bio
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