Flash: free controllers at the price of expensive maintenance contracts

Flash storage array providers are continually refining their service offerings around their systems to maximize their chances of retaining customers after the initial end of their maintenance contract. All manufacturers now offer extended warranties and renewals of maintenance contracts beyond the usual three years. Most are also committed to updating controllers in the bays for free if customers renew their maintenance contracts after the initial three years.

These programs have become so common for Flash storage arrays that the CEO of Tegile describes them as a critical issue for concluding with customers. Tegile System, like Pure Storage, recently redesigned its controller replacement and maintenance plan. As part of its “IntelliCare” support, the company launched its “Lifetime Storage” program, which allows customers to update their bay to a new bay every three to five years under a flat-rate maintenance contract. This program covers both controllers and Flash drives.

Pure Storage , for its part, was the first to propose the update of the controllers of its Flash bays by launching its Forever Flash program, more than two years ago, in February 2014. This program was replaced by the program “Evergreen Storage” in the summer of 2015. With “Timeless Storage”, Nimble Storage guarantees, for its part, that its maintenance and support rates will not increase during the lifecycle of its Flash storage systems. and guarantees the life of Flash storage devices for 7 years. If customers renew their support agreement after three years, the manufacturer offers them a free update of the controller of their bays.

Industry leaders like EMC or NetApp have had to adapt to the aggressive approaches of their competitors. EMC now offers a guarantee of stable maintenance costs through the “Lifetime Maintenance Price Protection” program and also guarantees the lifetime of its Flash media. NetApp, meanwhile, offers an update of its controllers and guarantees its Flash modules for a period of seven years. Hitachi Data Systems guarantees its Flash media for life, while IBM guarantees its Flash modules for 13 years and also updates its controllers.

The CEO of Nimble Storage, Suresh Vasudevan, confirms the stakes of these programs: “I would say that, at this point, a manufacturer who does not offer these programs or can not offer them is clearly at a disadvantage,” he said. he explained during a discussion with analysts after the announcement of the quarterly results of the firm.

Flash changes equipment depreciation rules

These warranty and controller update programs are one of the ways manufacturers can make us forget that the price of the raw flash gigabyte remains significantly higher than that of a gigabyte hard drive. This additional cost is offset by the implementation of data reduction techniques and benefits in terms of TCO (higher density, reduced power consumption, increased performance …).

For Randy Kerns, an analyst at Evaluator Group, data from the field shows that Flash drives have a much longer life than expected. It is estimated that an SSD has an average life of about seven years, while storage controllers are usually replaced every seven years.

“The damping rhythms and the value of the controllers and the flash are different. The longevity of the flash is much higher, which means that suppliers are separating Flash and controllers. ” Thus manufacturers have come to offer 5-7 year warranties on their flash modules and replacements of controllers after three years for those who extend their maintenance contracts. This has a benefit for customers who can depreciate their equipment over a longer period of time, but also for suppliers who thus gain customer loyalty and create a recurring revenue model.

Kaminario chose a different model. The manufacturer’s K-Assured program offers a fixed term maintenance contract that includes maintenance and warranty support for maintenance SSDs. As Sundi Arora, the Brand Product Marketing Manager, explains, the builder does not require a customer to purchase a three-year premium maintenance plan and extend it by another three years to obtain a modern free controller. .

We studied the model of free controllers, “he explains. “This is essentially a financial engineering exercise, which avoids the manufacturers to reduce their margins. They charge more for initial maintenance. In this way, what would have previously been a CAPEX expense becomes an OPEX maintenance expense. ” Clearly, Arora accuses its competitors of artificially boosting the price of maintenance, to offer a free controller after three years.

Kaminario, for its part, guarantees that its maintenance and support costs will always be calculated on the basis of a fixed rate applied to the purchase value of the equipment “. However, the manufacturer has another promise: if the delivered configuration does not deliver guaranteed performance, Kaminario will offer an additional free controller to achieve the expected result (the controllers, in the architecture of the manufacturer, are in scale-out mode and can increase performance and capacity by adding nodes).

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