Ending the insanity with “The Pencil”

Awhile back, I was asked to have a discussion with someone that was looking into virtualization and SAN storage to build out a traditional virtual environment. The customer – an Equallogic fan – had already settled on a VMWare and Equallogic solution, but was still willing to talk. He had sent us the following excerpt from an email:

“I will be looking feature-wise at snapshot features and integration with Windows and VMWare. I’m sure Jack filled you in so there isn’t a need to belabor the point but I was extremely impressed with features from other vendors and honestly disappointed by the snapshot features on the Scale platform. But I will happily give you another chance to show me something I may have missed.”

This customer’s take was based on demonstrations from Lefthand and his own experience on his Equallogic gear that showed him outstanding integration with Windows and VSS for snapshots as well as tight ESX storage API integration – creating snaps that are application-aware and consistent, creating and managing iSCSI LUNs through vSphere, these sorts of things. He had already mentally accepted that the complexity of such a solution was a foregone conclusion and a necessary evil to realize the benefits of virtualization.

It was time to show him that there is a better way ….

In the ensuing discussion, I started to explain a few things to him about his perceptions and then show him what Scale could really do for him. The gist of that discussion is what follows:

1. VSS isn’t something owned by Dell or HP, it is owned/created/developed by Microsoft and he already has the ability to control it. HP, VMWare, and Dell, to justify their exorbitant price tag, have to keep adding features of dubious value to their platforms. As he already has VSS and can configure it himself with a couple of clicks (I took a minute to show him how on our Webex session), it becomes silly to spend an extra $30,000 to do it second-hand through someone else’s GUI.

2. Same story with vSphere. Three clicks in their GUI PLUS configuring switching, PLUS configuring a “third baseman” management Windows server with SQL for vSphere PLUS configuring storage (with setting of RAID levels and determining which RAID sets are appropriate for which LUNs and which datastores and which VMs, PLUS configuring snapshot space, PLUS configuring protection space on some platforms), PLUS configuring iSCSI LUNs PLUS CHAP for security – all the while spending a bunch more time and money to do it the VMware/Equallogic way, and add a pile of moving parts to the solution, creating a “Rube Goldberg Machine” to accomplish his virtualization goals. This versus 3 clicks in our GUI without any of the extra pluses winding up with one thing to know and manage instead of 4 or 5 plus guesswork.

3. Show him the inherent advantages of our natively clustered approach from a compute, storage, costs (Cap-ex and Op-ex) and management perspective.

4. Finally, I told him a story. It made sense to him and really brought the difference home. It was a story about NASA spending billions of dollars to develop a pen that could be used in the weightlessness of outer space (and how similar that is to other virtualization and storage vendors “feature creep” like we had talked about with VMWare, Dell and HP), how they spent years of engineering time and piles of money, added massive complexity to the design side, and took years of development to accomplish what should have been such a relatively simple and obvious task. We then talked about how the Russians used a pencil. It did all of the same things at a fraction of the price, without the wasted time in development and did some things that the pen simply couldn’t. We closed out the discussion with this simple statement: the solution you have been looking at is the pen in mid-development. The solution you are really wanting is what we have already done and built for you. We are the pencil.

He is now a happy Scale customer using our ‘pencil.”

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