Chris James: reassure and cut risk with up-to-date substitutes
The channel plays an important part in helping businesses upgrade their storage infrastructure. Despite recent reports that storage hardware spending is falling, there are still plenty of opportunities for the channel. Many company managers out there are put off by the thought of disruption and costs to the business and, as a result, they have chosen not to update their IT infrastructure for many years.
There are several ways to encourage customers to abandon this staunch position and by far the most successful are the ones that offer reassurance and less perceived risk. This is why vendors offer “try and buy” schemes, so the customer can test the solution without it being a disruption to their business. The aim of course being that the customer is so impressed with the new solution that they don’t want to part with it at the end of the trial period. In fact, a high volume of sales are derived this way.
Another way of making inroads with customers is to offer solutions that are a better, more modern substitute than all-out replacement. A prime example is the Traffic Access Point (TAP), which is inserted into an IT system so the Fibre Channel protocol can be read offline without disruption to ongoing operations. The TAP is a substitute technology for the patch panel. Yet, although today it is industry best practice to use TAP Fibre Channel infrastructures, a mere 2% of new or migrating datacentres carry this simple, cheap technology that could avoid a slowdown or failure and the associated losses in revenue, time and brand value. Selling substitute technologies such as TAPs to enterprises can open doors to other new developments, leading to sales of higher ticket solutions and yielding higher margins.
The opportunities are there for the channel, and it might just be a one step-at-a-time approach that’s needed to deliver the results.
Warren Reid: complement hard disks with SSD tech
The channel has a key role in helping SMEs find solutions that support business growth and at a price they can afford. The days of rip out and replace have been heavily hit by tightening budget strings and, more often than not, resellers are asked to look at how existing kit can be maximised and combined with a touch of new technology to deliver overall better IT systems performance. One way to get more performance out of storage infrastructure is to complement traditional spinning hard disks (HDD) with solid state flash-based devices (SSD), which can be introduced within server nodes to accelerate key applications. However, for most applications, the most cost-effective scenario is to add SSD drives to networked storage arrays within a storage area network (SAN).
The key to making data storage investments in SSD/flash-based technology go further is to advise customers on how they can tier their storage so they only invest in SSD where needed. A tiered approach can give an ideal solution with critical workloads residing on SSDs and less demanding applications on the HDD tiers. The challenge here is ensuring that all ‘hot’ data is on solid state storage at all times. With the dynamic workload, which is often presented by multiple virtual machines, this is no easy task. The allocation of data is far better left to real time automated tiering, which can ensure the use of SSD is maximised for data sets that require the highest performance.
While the temptation might be to recommend an all-flash storage system, prices are still prohibitive to most SMEs and it’s a far easier sell to adapt existing infrastructure than rip out and replace. Customers are looking for solutions providers with an integrated approach and the opportunities for repeat business are also much higher in this scenario as the reseller demonstrates true understanding of the customer’s IT environment. The days of box shifting are truly on their way out.
Chris James is EMEA managing director at Virtual Instruments
Warren Reid is marketing director, EMEA, at Dot Hill
This was first published in March 2014