Storage Unicorns and Black Swans

By Chris Kranz | | Software-defined Storage

The tech industry is full of talk about unicorns, but the description is somewhat divided. Unicorn startups are generally defined as those valued at over $1bn, but the term is also used to talk about mythical technologies or solutions that don’t actually (or maybe can’t) exist.

The Black Swan was the Unicorn of its day. No one believed that a black swan could actually exist, so things that don’t exist were referred to as black swans. This was all fine until someone went and actually discovered a black swan! So this developed into Black Swan theory, which is about the unexpected rather than the impossible.

So why bring up these overused clichés? The Unicorn is very much overused these days, and often incorrectly. When someone talks about something unbelievable or apparently impossible, they refer to it as  Unicorn hunting. I bring up the Black Swan cliché as this is a more realistic way to describe the above; a Unicorn (at least until someone discovers one) does not exist and can never exist, while a Black Swan is assumed to not exist or be possible until it’s actually discovered.

Before I get onto why I think Hedvig is the Black Swan of the storage industry, I want to bring up another disruptive technology that was originally considered a Unicorn, the smart phone! Seeing as I’m using all the clichés today, I’ll start with this guy (who is clearly awesome) …

If you told someone in the ’80s or ’90s that you’d be carrying around a single device that could replace anything in this picture, they’d call you mental and that you’re Unicorn hunting! But what happened? Apple came along and released the iPhone, and then HTC came along and released the Dream. The rest is history.

We obviously now have more modern equivalents that actually consolidate more technology into them and do it incredibly effectively, but even the original incarnation of each device consolidated a considerable amount of technology into them. They were the Unicorn, or more correctly, the Black Swan technology of their day. However, are they the best at every individual technology they do? Well no, not really.

  • If you want an amazing video camera, you probably go out and sink a few thousand on a nice Red, or even just a few hundred on a simple handheld “camcorder”.
  • If you want an awesome gaming experience you go and buy/build a custom gaming PC (or even just an off-the-shelf console, lets not start the console vs. PC argument!).
  • If you love your music and want real hi-fidelity audio, you go and spend a lot of your hard-earned cash on a separates system and spend time discussing the merits of vinyl vs 192kbps with fellow audiophiles.
  • If you want to take stunning photos you buy a DSLR with all the relevant accessories and photographic paraphernalia.
  • If you want an awesome phone (that’s just a phone) with great battery life, you probably should have kept your old Nokia 3210.

The trouble is, most of us don’t do any of these, not for everyday use. The “better” versions simply aren’t practical, affordable, or convenient. But the smart phone is “good enough” for 99%+ of our needs. 99% of the pictures/videos of my family, pets and life are taken on my smartphone. 99% of the games I play are on my smart phone. 99% of the music I listen to is streamed through my mobile. 99% of my phone calls are done on my mobile; even if I use Skype or Webex I still use my mobile.

So why is it that something that isn’t the absolute best at everything is so popular? This is obvious now that most of us have a smartphone: cost, diversity of features and convenience. Even if you take a cheap alternative to all the individual features found in a smartphone, they can’t beat the convenience of a device you have in your pocket/hand all the time. Once you add up all the different components, even the most expensive smart phone is cheaper than the individual components, and certainly a lot more convenient!

So finally let’s get onto Hedvig, the storage industry Black Swan. We have brought to market the smart phone of the storage industry, a general purpose storage solution which excels at the vast majority of workloads. What it provides is the level of performance, availability, capacity and enterprise feature set that 99% of businesses require in a cost-effective and conveniently packaged-up solution that you can take anywhere in your data centre (or cloud).

We’ve brought to market a surprisingly complete set of features in a modern storage system that allows our customers to revolutionise their IT service offerings and provide the business true IT value. We allow our customers to consolidate their traditional silos into a single platform, which scales with their business requirements. The key to supporting as many storage workloads as possible is to have a storage system which is flexible enough to serve up a configurable set of features and technologies based on individual workload requirements.

Not all block-only requirements are equal, not all file-only requirements are equal, not all object requirements are equal, so why silo them into static storage silos that can’t flexibly adapt to the endless changing business requirements that are thrown at it. These same silos that are expensive to procure and run, and complex to manage. The 80’s called, they want their storage silos back.

Learn more about what we can do by downloading our architecture whitepaper below, or get in contact with us to discuss your requirements further.

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