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Avnet expands server evaluation service to include storage for HP VARs

By expanding its consolidation impact analysis to include storage for the end customers of Hewlett-Packard resellers, Avnet hopes to drive sales through its distribution channel.

Avnet Technology Solutions last week reinforced its longstanding view that giving sales-boosting tools to its channel partners can help Avnet's own distribution channel.

The company announced an expanded version of its Consolidation Impact Analysis (CIA) offering to include storage for its Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) value-added reseller (VAR) partners.

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The 18-month-old CIA service is a soup-to-nuts evaluation of a customers' server environments, how well its existing servers and storage fill those needs, and the potential increase in efficiency of consolidating many small servers into a smaller number of large servers.

The assessment is based on the analysis of a customers' current IT inventory and IT performance. Avnet's technical team spends eight to 10 weeks conducting a thorough analysis of a customer's server environment and the performance of that server infrastructure. It also includes a financial analysis of consolidation benefits and recommendations as to what HP technology should be used to maximize storage utility.

Avnet executives said that providing VAR customers and their IT managers with report cards on how much they can save through efficient server consolidation makes it easier for them to make quick decisions on IT spending projects.

"We do not sell our services independent of our product; we enable our product sales through services," said Ray Fischer, senior vice president of professional services for Avnet Technology Solutions. "As a distributor we are an integral part of the channel and our service practices are all about enabling and augmenting the partner to get very efficient and build some expertise," Fischer added.

One HP VAR partner with 18 customers that have either completed or are currently being assessed under the program said the consolidation analysis can cut a sales cycle in half.

"Before this program we used a manual, labor intensive and heavy consulting effort to understand the impact of consolidation in the environment. By using the consolidation impact analysis for large complex projects its probably cut the time in half on our sales cycles," said Gary Johnston, president of IT Partners, a Pheonix, Ariz.-based HP reseller.

Getting projects approved is a lot easier when the VAR can make customers aware of how cost-effective server virtualization can be as a method of storage management, he said.

An assessment of between 200 to 400 servers can cost between $20,000 to $30,000 and so far Avnet has done 160 of them. Storage assessments have always been part of the server-consolidation reports, whether it was direct attached or part of a storage-area network (SAN). But, Avnet executives said, adding an analysis focused exclusively on storage opens up opportunities to classify data files which, in turn expand service offerings to end customers.

"What's unique about including storage is now we are looking at the file system of our customers' environment, not just looking at the CPU performance," Fischer said. "We're now looking at the meta data file system and how we can set the stage for best practices for back up of files and so on," Fischer added.

By more closely examining the files within a storage infrastructure, companies will get a clearer picture of what their storage needs are and how they can plan a lifecycle management strategy.

"We can look down to the file level and classify file types. We can look at when those files were created, which helps with some compliance issues, when files were last assessed and when they were last modified," said Harold Grisamore director, professional services practice at Avnet Technology Solutions.

Grisamore also said that by sorting files Avnet's technical team can create a tiered-storage system based on assets, patterns and a particular customer's business policies.

Customers want to understand the value of their data, according to Johnston, who expects at least 70% of customers that have had server assessments to give the go ahead for a storage assessment.

"The hardest thing for customers to assess is not how much storage is out there and where the storage is located, it is what is the business value of the data on my different storage systems," Johnston said. "Customers have a really difficult time understanding and creating a hierarchy of what data is most important in their environment," Johnston added.

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