Q

Recurring revenue with NAS

Leveraging network-attached storage (NAS) properly can provide opportunities for VARs to create recurring revenue streams and build long-lasting relationships with their customers.

When preparing to work with a customer who is setting up a NAS, what are the best avenues for a VAR to add value and create a continuous stream of revenue?
To answer this question, it is worth taking a moment to look at the history of NAS as a product in its own right. The NAS filer protocols (NFS and CIFS) derived from work by Sun Microsystems and IBM/Microsoft, respectively. Early implementations enabled standard servers to be used as file servers with NFS being supported on Unix-based servers and CIFS on Windows -- originally as the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol, which later developed into CIFS. In the early 1990s, companies such as Network Appliance produced dedicated "filers," essentially dedicated file servers. These have matured to support file-based protocols (NFS/CIFS/HTTP) and block-based protocols (Fibre Channel and iSCSI). The addition of snapshot, clustering, replication and other functionality has enabled NAS products to operate on mainstream data center applications, including messaging and databases.

Clearly, a VAR needs to be looking to add value to in a number of ways:

  • Productivity. NAS products now have significant features to improve productivity. Examples include volume cloning (reduces the time to create new data environments such as test and UAT databases) and snapshots (reduces administrator interaction to perform file restores). VARs should look at their product feature set and help their customers develop new ways to improve their productivity.
  • Efficiency. There are many features that can be used to improve efficiency. One example is copy-on-write snapshot (which replicates data volumes without copying all data, only changed blocks). This can be used to create multiple test environments without significantly increasing storage usage.
  • Scope. NAS hardware no longer has to be restricted to file serving. VARs can pitch NAS products directly against traditional block-based storage products. This increases the scope in which these products may be used; NAS products are increasingly being used to support a wide range of application platforms.

There's no doubt that storage volumes continue to grow. VARs that interact with their customers on a regular basis to assess their needs and are able to demonstrate they are helping to manage this growth by offering products and features that improve productivity and efficiency will see their customers using NAS for a wider range of applications, helping them to maintain constant revenue streams.

This was first published in February 2007

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