Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What's your secret sauce?

Today you too can build a 135 terrabyte server for around $7,500.00 in parts.  The cost to you for the plans and equipment list?  Absolutely nothing.

Click right here and you can download the parts list and wiring diagrams at absolutely no cost from BackBlaze.

Why would BackBlaze do this?  They're in the business of selling cloud-based storage and they do it at extremely affordable prices (think $50 per year for unlimited cloud storage); their hardware is a big part of what allows them to keep their prices so low ... right?

Not really.  It turns out, as BackBlaze shows in their hardware plans, that outside of the custom enclosure, everything else inside one of their storage pods is commodity hardware.  Anyone with enough time could probably build one of their storage pods, so they have no problem giving away the hardware specifications and plans because that's not the special sauce at BackBlaze.

By giving away the hardware BackBlaze is very unlikely to lose any customers -- who is going to stop using their service to go build one of these themselves?  In fact, due to the considerable press that they are receiving from this move (and it's the second time they've done it), they are probably going to gain customers that may have never heard of them.  BackBlaze is also unlikely to make its competitors better or create new competitors -- again, the hardware is not the secret sauce.

What BackBlaze does, their secret sauce, is how they manage all of this hardware and put it together in a datacenter: the datacenter itself, the proprietary software that monitors all of the pods and distributes the inbound and stored data, the people that spend their time replacing failed drives.  How they create the software that works on your computer to efficiently transfer all of your date to their servers without bogging down your computer's operation.

What could you give away for free and not worry about your competitors having?  (I'm not saying you have to, but going through the exercise may lead you to what actually differentiates you)

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