Even though the results might not be

I am not a world-class chef or baker, or even an accomplished foodie who loves to cook up amazing meals at home. I am a solutions architect who works with enterprise data storage products, making sure that my customers can solve their data problems and run their businesses more efficiently.

The Same, but Different

Undoubtedly, the two professions—culinary and technology—couldn’t be more different. I am struck by the similarity between the two professions in one critical area. While one chef can make amazing Jambalaya, the other chef’s same dish can taste bland and uninspiring by comparison, even using the same ingredients, recipe, and cooking style. The same applies to storage solutions.

Even when incorporating the same components and architecture, the final solutions ultimately can produce very different outcomes, and the operational output can vary wildly in quality and effectiveness.

Why is that? How can it be that the results are so significantly different even when both the ingredients (components) and the recipes (architectures) are identical?

Having worked hands-on with numerous data storage products and solutions for many years, I can safely say that it doesn’t just come down to “magic” or some undefinable thing that one vendor does that another one doesn’t. Quite the opposite, actually. I can easily put my fingers on the reasons that one storage solution outpaces the other and works better for customers, even if both rely on the same components, the same architecture, and the same types of workflows.

Achieving Balance

Before I list them out, I will say this. Just as a chef or cook might favor a single spice or seasoning more heavily than another—such as salt, garlic, or hot sauce—and in so doing produce a predominant taste, a data storage vendor can focus on one key metric, such as IOPS, throughput, or latency reduction, sometimes to the exclusion of other key considerations for the customer. Sure, a handful of customers may really care about maxed out IOPS, but many others have quite different requirements for which amped-up IOPS might not be the most important or critical characteristic. Some people like lots of garlic while others do not. Sometimes it does come down to personal preference. In both cooking and technology, the key is balance.

OpenDrives’ customers tell us that our data storage solutions are different, even though the components we use and the architectural strategies we implement aren’t radically different from other solutions on the market. As with my culinary analogy, the differentiators lie not with what we use to build our enterprise-grade solutions but how we use them. Here are a few of those differentiators:

  1. We don’t rely on the expertise and wisdom of just one or two people (the head chefs) but rather openly share our knowledge, wisdom, and lessons learned among the broader company. I know that I cannot do my job well without the backup assistance of my colleagues, and vice versa. We are openly collaborative in everything we do. In the kitchen of the finest restaurants, isn’t this the same situation?
  2. We don’t expect our customers to conform their data environments or workflows to our solutions but rather expend our energies making sure that our solutions bolster and underpin what they’re trying to do. We are customer-centric and focus on what our customers are trying to accomplish, not what we want them to do. A great chef doesn’t disregard the order and send out what he or she feels is the best dish but rather tailors the dish to the customer’s expressed preferences.
  3. Because data technologies and environments are complicated, we are consultative rather than just transactional. Like the chef who is willing to come out to customers’ tables and solicit customer feedback, we practice active listening and keep a hyper-focus on what our customers are telling us that they need. We never sell a solution then just wish them well. We travel on the journey with them.
  4. Equally, we listen to the markets and the different channels. We keep up with all the relevant technology trends to make sure we aren’t missing any innovation worth implementing.
  5. We’re nimble enough to make course corrections as the inevitable challenges arise. Every great chef knows how to turn disaster into delight, and we try to do the same. We don’t avoid obstacles, we simply work through them as a team with our customers.

Lastly, perhaps the difference is just that, like a great chef, we are doing what we truly love to do. Perhaps that’s the secret ingredient that many other vendors just can’t figure out.