IT pricing is a funny thing. The elephant in the room is that very few organizations actually pay list price for technology. Deals are done, discounts are offered and the final price is generally totally removed from the published price list. So when a vendor comes out publicly saying that their solution is cheaper than the competition, we need to take pause and think about what that actually means. That is the case this week with an announcement by all-flash vendor Kaminario.
Kaminario is one of an increasing number of vendors offering all-flash storage for the enterprise. The benefits of flash storage have long been understood - increased performance and reliability are traits that the consumer world has enjoyed ever since the first flash-based iPod was introduced. But flash in the enterprise has been problematic due to the price difference between traditional and flash-based storage. Flash has generally been seen as that cool thing that, unfortunately, costs more than spinning disks.
In recent years, however, that has changed. Fueled by a massive increase in supply and advances in technology, the price of flash now rivals that of spinning disk. All the advantages of flash can be had without suffering the disadvantage. That fact has given rise to a number of vendors riding the wave of improved economics and increasing awareness for flash. Companies like SolidFire and Kaminario are seen as the new generation of storage vendors.
Kaminario, for its part, offers scale-out and scale-up architecture that has gained much attention - Gartner recently named the company as a visionary in its Magic Quadrant for Solid-State Arrays. Kaminario is riding that, and the aforementioned economic wave and coming out with a claim of being the cheapest flash-array vendor in existence. Kaminario is pushing a claim of an "average price" of less than $1 per GB of usable space. Kaminario backs its claims up with a guarantee - customers will continue to be guaranteed effective capacity; if a customer is unable to store the capacity that is guaranteed, they will receive additional hardware at no expense to expand their system and fulfill that guarantee.
With the new K2 v5.5 array, not only is Kaminario promising the best cost basis, but it is also emulating an approach taken by rival SolidFire, that of offering a guarantee of compatibility - customers can phase in new hardware without disruption.
It strikes me that Kaminario isn't really trying to compete with vendors like SolidFire, rather it is trying to drive a stake through the heart of traditional storage vendors. True its language attempts to paint itself as the most innovative and economical all-flash vendor out there, but the reality is that all the vendors of this type offer solutions that cast huge shadows against traditional players. While neither Kaminario nor SolidFire would ever admit it, they're both essentially in lockstep offering innovation after innovation that shows just how dated traditional storage approaches are.
Of course there are some barriers - both these vendors need to navigate a path between a highly converged software plus hardware system and a software solution that can be applied to third-party hardware platforms. For its part SolidFire has begun to broaden its story beyond its own proprietary hardware - I'd expect Kaminario to follow a similar path and get a dose of the flexibility bug to provide a solution for customers who want the Kaminario goodness applied to their platform of choice.
Regardless of short-term moves, and regardless of the accuracy of Kaminario's claims to be the cheapest tool in the shed, the state of the storage industry is certainly changing. Kaminario and its brethren are players to watch for the future.