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When abstraction from hardware-specific products makes sense

As hardware becomes a commodity with little differentiation among vendors, analyst Jon Toigo notes that "it's only natural" that hardware-specific products will become less popular among users.

"There is a time at which a hardware-specific product becomes irrelevant, becomes a commodity, when everyone is selling basically the same box," said Toigo.

He told his Storage Decisions audience that in some cases, the difference among vendors is merely the name on a piece of hardware, such as in the case of servers, which rely on components made by a handful of manufacturers. Recognizing this, vendors turn to other ways to attract customers.

"The differentiators that are put on the platforms are considered value-add software to jack up the price," said Toigo, who is CEO and managing principal of analyst firm Toigo Partners International, as well as chairman and co-founder of the Data Management Institute.

He pointed to the marketing of deduplication as an example -- one vendor sold a unit that included 300 drives that were worth about $3,000, according to Toigo. But the vendor positioned its software on a proprietary controller as a value-add for the product, and sold the device for more than $400,000, he said.

"It doesn't make any sense to me, but that's how the world works," said Toigo.

He noted that workload portability was made possible when operating systems and applications could be abstracted from the hardware, making it more portable.

He noted that hardware's cost is only sustained by included software, which can create "islands" of incompatible products, each with their own annual licensing costs.

"Why not make that a service that can be applied generically to the commodity components of that rig, which are disk drives? … That makes sense," said Toigo.

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