Amazon AWS launched its S3 web service in 2006, and its use has grown steadily since then. All major service providers now offer similar services, and ISPs of all sizes would like to do the same, but they worry about not being competitive enough. The investment required to build an object store with traditional products and technologies is quite large, and if it is not managed in the right way it could easily result in a huge waste of resources and money.
OpenIO has several ISPs among its customers, and we have learned a lot from their successes (and their occasional mistakes). In this article, I'd like to share with you what we think is necessary to build a successful object storage service and how to take advantage of OpenIO’s unique technology to do this with a minimal initial investment, and how to keep costs aligned with business growth.
With OpenIO, you can start with a minimum of 3 nodes, but you won't be competitive with this kind of configuration because it forces you to have a 3-way replica for data protection. The smallest viable configuration for an ISP is 6 nodes, so that you can safely enable erasure coding (4+2) and take advantage of its efficiency.
OpenIO needs a minimal amount of resources for each node (here’s a link to our X86 sizing guide). This means that these nodes can be very small and inexpensive (you could literally start with 1 small CPU, 8GB RAM, and 1 HDD per node if you want). This also means that you don't need to invest a lot of money on the initial infrastructure.
OpenIO also supports virtual machines (which can be used to demonstrate the service before buying the hardware), and nodes of different types and generations, meaning that you can start with recycled hardware. The latter is particularly important, and we have several customers who started with recycled hardware and mixed it with new servers when their businesses grew. (See an example with Aquaray Use Case). If you can find recycled hardware or some capacity from a virtual infrastructure you could start today.
And once you get the hardware set up, what’s next? OpenIO is open source software and free to download. Our standard support subscription is a very low investment to get support and some useful additional features useful to make your service even more flexible.
Be your first customer, and take advantage of it
As soon as you have the infrastructure installed, you can easily become your first customer. There are two advantages to this:
- It helps you quickly become familiar with this new type of storage,
- And it makes you more confident about its capabilities when it is time to sell it to your customers.
One of the most interesting examples in this case could be to use OpenIO for backups. Included in our standard subscription, OIO-FS (or file system interface) will allow you to use a standard interface for any sort of backup you may need. You can mount OpenIO's containers as volumes on Linux hosts and share them via NFS. This is the cheapest storage repository you'll find, yet the most robust in terms of data durability. It’s perfect for backups, even if your software doesn't support S3 directly.
Backup is just one example; OpenIO can easily justify its presence for your internal needs pretty quickly, offering remarkable ROI , even before you start selling it to others.
Be compatible, build a solution ecosystem
The most important thing to do when selling object storage is to give your customers a clear set of use cases and solutions. Selling S3 as is won't get you very far, and competing with companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft is quite hard, because price isn’t the only consideration.
Building your own ecosystem is the only way to go. The list of use cases could be pretty long, and OpenIO is S3- and Swift-compatible, and this will make your life easier.
Test as many applications as you can and show them to your customers. Then build additional services with some of them. Some of our ISP customers built successful sync & share services focused on GDPR compliance thanks to Storage Made Easy, one of our partners. Others took advantage of our compatibility with Rubrik’s data protection solution to sell archiving storage in their countries without having to deal with international regulations about data locality.
One solution that I really like is from an ISP that certified Synology ROBO/SOHO appliances. These appliances can do backups on S3-compatible services directly, without external tools. Now they sell the small NAS appliances alongside the backup and DR services.
It is important to note that we support our customers in this effort. After testing the compatibility, we also help our customers with the fine-tuning of their solutions to optimize performance and efficiency, and avoid any bottleneck or risk.
Make it easy to consume
OpenIO offers a lot of advantages. As far as we can tell, the best course of action when selling your object storage service is to pass on as many of these advantages as possible to your customers.
The S3 pricing model is extremely complicated. $/GB has to be added to I/O operations, egress costs, and more. It makes the real cost of the service quite unpredictable, up to a point that it could undermine your business.
And it is not just about capacity: encryption, remote, and geo-replication (with stretched clusters) are other features that are included with our standard subscription. The most successful services we have seen in the last three years are those based on an all-included and easy to consume business model. Your customers will love the simplicity and clarity.
OpenIO provides a complete set of APIs for chargeback and billing, and it’s easy to provide full reports and statistics to your customers too.
OpenIO is designed with flexibility, efficiency, and ease-of-use in mind. These are also the characteristics that lead to the success of our ISP customers.
OpenIO technology and philosophy help ISPs build reliable and scalable infrastructures aligned with their business needs. ConsciousGrid technology, for example, thanks to its dynamic load balancing and its ability to take full advantage of heterogeneous resources in the cluster, helps our customers keep cluster expansions painless and aligned with their business needs.
Starting with OpenIO is easy, and requires a very small initial investment, both in terms of money and time. This helps our customers quickly understand object storage, so they can focus their time and money on making it successful. This is true for everybody, but it is especially important for ISPs for whom IT infrastructure is at the core of their business.