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How SLAs are transforming data storage consumption

Patrick Smith Profile picture for user Patrick Smith January 25, 2024
Summary:
Not all Storage-as-a-Service (STaaS) offerings are created equal. Pure Storage's Patrick Smith offers some key elements of SLAs for buyers looking for real value.

IT Engineer Using laptop in Data Center © SeventyFour - Canva.com
(© SeventyFour - Canva.com)

A good experience is fundamental to any storage as-a-service (STaaS) offering. However, in the IT industry, the stakes are especially high. Enterprise customers must rely on vendor service levels in order to make meaningful guarantees to their own users and customers. It’s for this reason that we’ve witnessed the rise in importance of Service Level Agreements (SLAs), guarantees offered up by companies as a way to ‘put their money where their mouth is when it comes to promising a good service/experience.

When looking for a STaaS solution for your business, it’s important to assess vendor SLAs that can span across a wide range of commitments including uptime, minimum levels of performance, zero data loss, zero migrations, promises of no forklift hardware upgrades, and even guarantees around energy consumption and ransomware protection. Crucially, make sure that the SLAs will provide real value to your business. In this article we’ll take a closer look at some of the SLAs you may want to consider.

The essentials - uptime and performance

First and foremost, any service worth its salt must include SLAs around uptime and performance. An uptime guarantee will provide a clear expectation of the level of availability that the STaaS vendor is committing to deliver. Performance SLAs meanwhile, typically come in the form of KPIs that can be tracked to analyze specific aspects of the performance of the vendor. For example, guaranteeing a minimum level in terms of throughput (MB/s). This increases accountability and ensures the vendor doesn’t fall short of providing the promised services.

Sustainability now a part of the service

Historically, sustainability hasn’t been factored into technology decision making. However, the cost and logistics of data center energy and cooling, as well as the physical footprint of storage solutions has become a C-level agenda item. This is because energy efficiency and data center footprint are not only important for the environment, but also translate directly to the bottom line of a business. The past few years have seen electricity costs soar across the globe while data center power bills have doubled in three years. As much as 50% of the power used in data centers today is spent on cooling technologies.

It’s only logical that the next generation of STaaS offerings include vendor commitments to not only control power usage, but even commit to paying customer’s energy and rackspace costs upfront. Customers should look for a set of SLAs that assure power efficiency, and guarantee an agreed Watts/TiB. Through the adoption of the world’s most modern flash storage solutions, it’s possible to achieve up to an 85% reduction in energy usage and carbon emissions, and up to 95% less rack space than competing offerings. In terms of e-waste you should also look for guarantees that there will be no need for data migrations or forklift upgrades as hardware goes through its lifecycle.

AI key to tracking storage assets and SLAs

Key to smoothly upgrading hardware and optimizing its energy and space savings over time is to keep tabs on infrastructure using AIOps-based monitoring. Companies should look for tools that provide full transparency into asset performance, capacity, energy, and rack space usage as well as up-to-date information on contracts, subscriptions, and lifecycle state. That means predictive tracking of capacity utilization with actionable alerts to increase capacity if needed, and SLA indicators to track how well the vendor is meeting performance and efficiency benchmarks.

Ransomware protection SLAs

With the rise of sophisticated ransomware and evolving cyber threats, the definition of business continuity is being rewritten. According to IDC, over 90% of organizations acknowledge being attacked by malware, and of those, 87% were attacked successfully. In this shifting landscape, how prepared is your business to weather both natural and manmade storms?

We’re now seeing the emergence of the industry’s first SLAs that help customers recover from a ransomware attack quickly, restoring original business operations in a clean storage environment. One such agreement can guarantee next business day clean storage arrays for the US, Europe and UK, 48-hours to finalize a recovery plan started at any time, data transfer rate (8 TiB/Hour), as well as a professional services engineer onsite through RMA. After an attack, storage arrays are often locked down for forensic investigation by cyber insurance or law enforcement, leaving organizations unable to recover data to infected arrays. By guaranteeing clean arrays on site and installed quickly, this SLA enables customers to recover faster.

As-a-service now a must have

STaaS is no longer just about cloud storage, or OpEx over CapEx for budgetary convenience. The next generation of STaaS is about meaningful SLAs that guarantee a wide range of aspects of services delivered via a cloud-like operating model, whether on-premise or in the cloud. Fortunately, we now have the arrival of the next generation as-a-service model – across on-prem and cloud-deployed storage – in which the vendor offers a rounded stack of services underpinned by a comprehensive suite of SLAs.

These SLAs should include energy efficiency guarantees, as well as SLAs around performance, availability, zero data loss and capacity buffers, plus commitments to no forklift upgrades or data migrations between hardware. Furthermore, there are now SLAs around ransomware recovery. As-a-service is no longer just a different way of spending budget. It’s a must-have service option, built for hybrid cloud. If you’re looking for a STaaS solution, don’t accept anything less than the best experience possible, underpinned by the right SLAs and guarantees for your business.

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