Checklist: Be prepared for storage networking vendor consolidations

How should you respond to a storage vendor takeover? This checklist offers some strategies to prepare your channel business and your customers for storage networking product mergers.

How should you respond in the event of merger or takeover? This checklist offers some strategies you can employ.

Over recent years the storage market has seen considerable consolidation as smaller companies (and some not so small) were bought or merged with those that used to be rivals. Clearly those companies were rivals for a reason, most notably the unique selling points of their products. Such vendor consolidation presents a number of headaches for storage administrators who have to cope with technology change and product line or feature set integration -- imagine what you can expect as consultant or system integrator working with various vendors and products.

 Checklist: Be prepared for vendor consolidation
Minimize risk before it happens
You can take steps to ensure that the impact of consolidation has the least possible effect. Consider the following:
   •Work with your customers to select the right vendors. It is more likely that the larger more mature vendor will acquire its competition; the big fish will swallow the small fish. Work with vendors who will integrate new technology into their existing product sets.
   •Stick with standard technologies; don't try and implement things that are too radical. Keep what you implement simple.
   •Keep to industry standards. Advise your customers not to implement unratified protocols or "non-standard standards" without thinking through the implications. For example, when choosing Fibre Channel technology, Cisco VSANs will add functionality but don't work when connected to other fabric vendors' kits.
   •Think about product longevity. Choose technologies that look to have a long lifespan.
Develop migration strategies
When the inevitable happens and a product line or two get merged together, how will you cope?
   •Help your customer develop a product roadmap; work with both customers and vendors to develop a clear understanding of future product direction.
   •Work with your customer to create a data migration strategy. Storage hardware and software must be replaced over time. You should have a migration strategy to eventually replace all parts in your infrastructure, which may mean developing host, fabric or array-based migration product suites, depending on the level of interoperability of old and new kit.
In addition, as a channel partner you should consider the following:
   •Clear product roadmaps: Have an understanding on your vendors' technology at least 18 months to two years ahead. After any consolidation, ask for a clear statement of new product direction.
   •Migration tools and support: Offer customer assistance if you have to change your product line and move to a new technology. Agree to bake migration into the deal for future product purchases.
   •Additional product interoperability: Ask vendors how they intend to provide additional interoperability among new product sets. For example, in a merger of two Fibre Channel switch manufacturers, the previously separate product lines should be supported in a single fabric. Use this information to help customers move forward in their consolidated environments.
You can't avoid the future, but you can take some simple steps to develop your own strategy for handling a vendor consolidation.

Chris M. Evans
Chris M. Evans is an independent storage consultant with Brookend Ltd., with nearly 20 years' experience in a wide range of storage platforms covering mainframe, open systems and Windows. Chris specializes in network-attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) technologies, designing and implementing large-scale infrastructure projects for major financial corporations. Online, Chris maintains; you can catch up with him on his blog at
Copyright 2006 TechTarget

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