If you’ve been involved with infrastructure refreshes, especially with storage, you are probably intimately familiar with the corresponding pain and agony. This abuse is more a byproduct of how technology progresses and is architected versus directly abusive actions from vendors in the industry. Regardless, the sad result is as an industry, we’ve grown to accept them as expected, even allowing ourselves to become sympathetic.


Meanwhile, companies such as AHCS and their ezVerify platform have evolved beyond this old-school refresh strategy. Rather than spending a year developing a five-year strategy, they have adopted a more nimble mindset that allows for agility, stability, and an ongoing ambition to permanently think beyond the boundaries of typical.


Still, not everyone is there, but it’s how they have been conditioned. I regularly encounter IT organizations who admit refreshing infrastructure is a tremendous challenge and expense of resource and in the following breath defend the situation. Just looking at the process for procuring and implementing storage solutions. It’s a series of beatings and valueless activities.


  1. You spend weeks or months outlining what you think you’ll need for the next four years.
  2. You make a decision and spend boatloads of money for the solution. Then wait.
  3. While waiting you look in your data center to identify where you’re going to put the new system. This generally requires shuffling in order to accommodate the new system.
  4. Installation of a traditional system can take days or weeks depending on the size and platform.
  5. You get the solution in and spend months moving data over to the new array. Your recognition of value starts here, and it’s often a slow and arduous process.
  6. Let’s assume you get everything migrated within six months. I’ve seen this go longer. You’ve now migrated everything over and are starting to get value from the purchase. If you run on a four-year amortization plan, you’ve already lost 1/8 of the cost of the purchase with zero appreciable value.
  7. You spend the next few weeks or months tweaking and “balancing” the system so you can better align the workloads. Some organizations do this better than others.
  8. You’ll operate the system for about 18 to 24 months before you’re scoping out the next upgrade. The cycle starts over.
  9. You spend the last six to nine months of the life of the system migrating it to the next system, regardless of whether you pay to extend the support of the system.

I appreciate this is a simplification of the process and that each organization and product is different. However, it’s very consistent in the storage industry. Making matters worse, as we increase the capacity of these platforms, we’re seeing the amount of time required to migrate these workloads continuing to increase.


There is a better way. NetApp provides a dramatic relief from this abusive cycle with the scale-out architecture of SolidFire. A SolidFire customers journey looks more like the following.


  1. The team determines the amount of performance and capacity needed for the current or initial project.*
  2. The cluster is brought online and workloads can go on right away.
  3. Native integrations with OpenStack, VMware VVols, Docker, and CloudStack mean value can be realized on day 0. Don’t just take my word for it.
  4. While getting value out of that initial investment, the team can begin targeting other projects.
  5. Additional nodes are added without interruption of the system or existing work. No balancing acts are required.
  6. The architectural work is limited to identifying the required performance and capacity and ensuring a proper mix of nodes (if mixing node types is required).
  7. Any performance misalignments are solved by changing QoS values, not migrating data.
  8. As new nodes are released to market and old nodes are targeted to be decommissioned, the new nodes are simply added to the existing system. Then, the old nodes can be evacuated from the cluster one at a time. No messy LUN cleanup in the environment.
  9. No data migration activities. All data movement is part of the node evacuation. No impact to workloads. No interruption to business. No impact to the infrastructure.
  10. The only difficult decision becomes determining how to use the evacuated nodes.


*Some may argue they would rather (or their budgets require) making a large upfront investment. Value is still had for the entire system since data is distributed across the entire cluster. An increase in the number of nodes means an increase in network throughput, performance, and CPU/memory for supporting the storage workloads.


SolidFire customers are able to approach the lifecycle of storage with an architecture that matches their needs for today — as well as day 730. We provide reduced risk in both a financial and technical sense. Improper planning or business forecasting often leads to gross overbuying or misalignment with actual workload requirements. SolidFire makes data migrations and the pains of technology refresh a distant memory, allowing both IT and the business to tackle more important challenges.

Josh Atwell

Josh Atwell is a Cloud Architect for SolidFire focusing on developing VMware and automation solutions. Over the last 10+ years he has worked very hard to allow little pieces of code to do his work for him through various automation tools. Most recently Josh worked as a vArchitect for VCE where he worked with customers to architect solutions to meet their infrastructure needs. He also served as a VMware and cloud champion, as well as being selected as a technical team lead. Prior to VCE Josh worked at Cisco on the Virtualization Infrastructure Operations team where he focused on automation for VMware, Cisco UCS, and architecting Splunk for all of IT. Josh is a contributing author to the popular Mastering vSphere series and the upcoming Devops for VMware Administrator book. He is highly involved in the virtualization community where he's been active leading technology based user groups and the vBrownBag podcast. Josh holds a degree in aerospace engineering from North Carolina State University and has maintained residence in the Raleigh, NC area.

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