Flash is a hot topic with at least a portion of most VARs’ calling bases. In the right implementations, this storage technology can dramatically improve performance of the most important applications customers have. But there are some distinct differences between the design and operation of NAND flash memory devices and those of traditional disk drives. These differences can impact how satisfied customers are with flash devices in what are often their most critical applications.
Helping customers leverage the benefits of open systems infrastructures is a storage VAR’s bread and butter. Nothing is really plug-and-play, so designing, implementing and supporting storage hardware and software systems has become the primary value customers get from a storage VAR. Ever since the cloud has come on the scene, more than a few integrators and storage resellers have become concerned about it replacing the need for on-site infrastructure and stealing their business.
This is one of those “the devil’s in the details” situations. Continued »
When I worked for a VAR, I had a customer who used to call what we did “nonrecurring engineering.” I thought it was just the standard presales work that most good integrators do, but this customer’s description really put a focus on the value we provided. When you called it engineering (which it was), that made an easy connection to the real costs associated with the customer having to do that work if its VAR didn’t provide it.
It just occurred to me that we never grabbed that term and used it on other proposals. Looking back, we should have put a line item on every quote for “nonrecurring engineering” — instead of “integration” or “installation” or the least descriptive of all, “professional services.” It’s all about providing value, which includes making sure your customer understands what that value is and how often you’re providing it.
It’s essential to remind your customers, early and often, about the things you’re doing for them. Activities like on-site assessments, setting up demos or having your sales engineers stop by the data center and tweak a configuration for free are all things VARs do that most customers appreciate. But there are other things VARs do that they should probably make a bigger deal about, like the effort involved with vetting new technologies, learning them and then coming by with an SE to whiteboard them for the customer, when there’s no RFP involved. These are things that save busy IT folks time and thereby provide them value.
Another idea is to ask your customers what you do that they value the most. They may say “provide a non-biased source of information” or “put together solutions from multiple vendors,” both of which are certainly valid. But there are probably things you do that they really like that you don’t realize. Maybe they appreciate the fact that your salespeople seem to know their stuff and don’t have to call an SE to answer every question. There may even be a few things another VAR does to provide value that you could do as well.
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Storage Switzerland met with Symform at SNW last week and got an update on this novel cloud storage provider’s offerings. As we discussed in a blog last year, Symform is a cloud storage service that enables customers to use the excess capacity they have available on local servers to create a more economical cloud storage network. Essentially, the company uses a peer type of architecture to aggregate capacity from its users’ environments into a shared pool of cloud storage.
As analysts we have a tendency to get ahead of the market. We talk about topics typically months or even years before real-world users actually start buying them in earnest. I was reminded of this fact, again, during a discussion I had recently with the CIO of a Colorado state agency on the issue of users bringing mobile devices to work. I cited some data I’ve seen repeatedly about how IT initially pushed back on employees using their tablets and smartphones for work-related tasks because of concerns about control over those devices. CIOs, instead of supporting their IT departments, were acquiescing to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend because, in part, it meant saving money on buying gear for users.
The CIO I spoke with said his biggest concern wasn’t really the BYOD movement; it was the security risk from the use of laptops outside the company — hacking or snooping at places like Starbucks and the potential for lost laptops. Continued »
All VARs have to provide value to their customers and make sure the customer understands that value. Assuming that a prospective client “gets it” is a classic rookie mistake that’s made by salespeople and managers in channel organizations all over the place. Users don’t automatically associate product value with the person or organization that brings that product in for them to see. You have to demonstrate that value, telling them early and often what you’re bringing to the party. I had a manager years ago who used to say, “Your wife knows you love her, but she still wants you to tell her that.”
Feeds and speeds instead of business cases, features instead of benefits — a lot of people trying to sell stuff in the storage space are talking about the “what” of their products instead of the “why.” Continued »
Don’t you just love it when you’re in a discussion with a customer or prospect and they start complaining about their problems? I always did. In fact, sometimes it was difficult to keep from smiling as they laid out their pain. I know this may sound cruel or insensitive, but hearing about a potential customer’s problems makes VARs happy. It’s been said that contented artists aren’t creative. I’d expand that to say customers without pain aren’t really customers — or won’t be for long.
“Big data” is a topic that’s getting a lot of ink these days. Even for companies not in the typical big data verticals (media and entertainment, oil and gas, genomics, scientific research, etc.), the accumulation of reference-based data sets is becoming a problem. Tape’s economics and physical density are well established, and most big data use cases involve tape in one way or another. But at the Tape Summit in San Francisco last week, there were two other points made about tape that are worth repeating.
Cloud storage is still a hot topic. Judging by the amount of traffic we continue to see for an article posted on Storage Switzerland over two years ago (it still ranks at or near the top of our traffic results every week), there are a lot of unanswered questions about the term “cloud storage.” Part of the reason is that cloud storage means different things to different groups of people. The definition depends on whom you ask.
There’s certainly been a lot written about converged stacks, or integrated IT stacks. These are essentially preconfigured racks of compute, storage and networking gear with server virtualization laid on top. The value proposition is to provide end users with a plug-and-play solution that greatly simplifies the traditional process for implementing what’s rapidly becoming the standard compute environment.
This isn’t just an implementation play, a bundle that makes procurement and installation easier. Continued »