So NetApp is bundling their software for their low-end iSCSI arrays according to CRN. Aah that perennial battle of a la carte pricing versus bundles… Is it better to offer customers everything they might need at a single price or to give them the chance to pick and choose? Let’s think about it…
Consider that glorious American culinary innovation, the buffet. People love buffets. But a friend in “the biz” tells me that restaurants have a love/hate relationship with them. On the one hand, people tend not to eat any more at a buffet than they would if just ordering an all-inclusive meal (really!), though a la carte menus do tend to cut into food consumption. Plus, restaurants can charge much more per head at a buffet than any other menu system, so there’s guaranteed revenue per customer. But people tend to waste more food at China Taste Buffet than at Chef Lo’s, and they tend to gravitate to the expensive spare ribs and general gao’s instead of the cheap lo mein.
But the important thing is that customers love the buffet experience. They feel like they’re getting a bargain when they gorge on “free” shrimp, even if they aren’t really getting any more for less. It’s in our nature to want something for nothing.
So what about storage? Which model is best for customers – EqualLogic’s philosophy of bundling all features with hardware or NetApp’s old stance that customers should pay for each feature they want? Clearly, bundling helps when a customer plans to use a lot of features, since replication and application integration can easily double the cost of a mid-range storage array.
But there’s the confounding factor that most people don’t use many storage features. Back in the ’90s it was “common knowledge” that more than half of all EMC TimeFinder licenses were “shelfware”. Of course this had something to do with how much of a pain it was to integrate with applications, but the sales people were happy to bundle it with every Symmetrix purchase! The question is whether people on the whole benefit more from bundling or un-bundling…
Perhaps more people would use advanced features if they were free. I guess this is the goal of the storage upstarts – get folks to love the integration provided by their bundled features so they won’t want to switch to another array as their needs grow. I for one would love to see more people integrate snapshots and replication into their storage environments to improve recoverability, so I’m all for it.
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