Solution provider takeaway: Solution providers can turn to network unified storage platforms for customers who are looking for lower costs, simplicity, flexibility and investment protection.
It seems like nobody can make a decision anymore. IT shops have a lot of choices when it comes to storage; one is which protocol to use when connecting servers to storage. So many choices exist: CIFS, NFS, iSCSI, Fibre Channel and, soon, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and iSCSI Extensions for Remote DMA (iSER). They are all compelling; it's no wonder that IT managers don't want to commit to just one.
Thankfully, unified storage may be the answer for a prospective client stuck in analysis paralysis. A unified storage system, also called network unified storage (NUS), combines file-based and block-based storage in a single device. NUS has been extremely well-received in the SMB market; as a result, storage leaders like NetApp, EMC and BlueArc have frontline NUS products that span the storage market from small businesses to large enterprises. In this tip, we'll look at four good reasons why both customers and integrators can find value in unified storage platforms.
- Lower cost: Unified storage took off in the midmarket because it provides an exceptional value to customers. NUS allows customers who need both SAN and NAS storage to leverage common storage controllers, management and replication software, high-availability protection and performance while limiting the environmental impact of supporting both concurrently. Obviously, the reduced capital burdens from using the same resources twice will entice prospective customers; integrators should bring that savings to the table to demonstrate value.
- Simplicity: NUS systems usually deploy a single user interface and common management tool set no matter what protocol is used. Reduced administration points and fewer technology stacks mean that your customer has to buy, learn and maintain only one set of software. This is important for all customers, from small to large; everybody is trying to do more with less. Integrators stand to benefit too. When this advantage is properly positioned, a NAS solution can help grow an opportunity or eliminate the competition for a deal.
- Flexibility: IT managers have to make tough choices every single day. Many of those decisions will have long-term consequences that reach far beyond the manager's ability to see or predict their impact. Managers want the option to morph their investment into something different, something that adapts to the changing business needs without spending more money. Unified storage enables your customer to allocate capacity over NAS one day and repurpose it later as SAN storage. You can win with unified storage by articulating the value of this flexibility, thereby reducing the time and effort required determine the ratio of SAN-to-NAS storage required. Shorter analysis periods mean shorter sales cycles. Customers safely can buy now and decide the SAN/NAS ratio later!
- Investment protection: IT buyers today have been around the block a time or two, and they want to know that they won't be forced to rip and replace a solution just because their internal requirements change over time. Customers need the upgradeability that most NUS solutions offer. Customers who understand the value of unified storage will likely consider continued investments like capacity upgrades and other enhancements. Satisfied customers looking to upgrade usually return to the integrator who installed the original equipment -- finally a deal for which you shouldn't have to scrap and compete.
So the next time your customer is looking for a new storage platform, consider presenting a unified storage solution. They will likely appreciate the four value propositions it provides, and you'll benefit from them too.
About the author
Brian Peterson is a sales engineer for a value-added reseller, with a background in enterprise storage and open systems computing platforms. A recognized expert in his field, Brian has held positions of responsibility on both the supplier and customer sides of IT.
This was first published in February 2009