How to choose a vendor is sometimes a very sensitive topic. It sometimes depends on prior relationships, the compatibility between the vendor's sales and support organizations and your organization, vendor credibility in the marketplace, references by other customers and so on. It is sometimes an emotional decision rather than a logical one.
In other words, some people make the decision like choosing a car dealership to buy a new car. They find something that suites their budget, choose a model and color and then find the best deal in town.
Partnering with a storage solution provider should be done in a more logical fashion. You will be making a commitment to store your company's vital assets on the solution of choice, so you should not take that commitment lightly.
Use a logical and thorough approach:
- Submit an RFP to all the vendors you believe have the capability to meet your requirements.
- Ask each vendor for a list of customers that can be referenced.
- Ask each vendor for a list of customers that use their competitors storage, and call them!
- Check with industry analysts on the merits of each vendor's strategy and vision.
- If you have a lab, ask each vendor to submit their solution to your own testing. This will give you experience with both the products themselves, and give you an idea of the type of support you will receive after the sale.
- Do your homework. Read everything you can about each vendor's products so you can ask intelligent questions. How old is the architecture, are they pitching last years model? Is there an upgrade path? What are the ongoing costs? What about maintenance? Is everything non-disruptive?
- Compare apples to apples. Don't compare enterprise class arrays to cheaper modular solutions. You usually get what you pay for.
- Find out which vendor actually can help you solve your business problems. Do they have solution architects that can help you, or will they just be dropping off the box after the bill is paid.
- Find out if there is a synergy with any of the vendors to the application platform or servers you are using. Are you happy with that current relationship?
- Don't fall for a great sales pitch. Let the technology speak for itself then test it to prove it out.
- Run benchmarks using your existing applications to see if a proposed solution fits your performance requirements.
- Test the management software for ease of use, ease of configuration, and ability to be accessed via scripting functionality for automation.
Do all the above with vendors who have provided solutions to your RFP that meets your budget. If the current solution does not fit your budget, ask them to try again. Let each vendor know you are looking at their competition (you would be amazed at how things get cheaper real fast!)
In the long run, choose at least two vendors who meet all the above tests. You may even want to buy from both and combine them within your environment. This keeps both honest, can keep your costs down and provides a fallback in case one vendor's solution suffers from unforeseen problems.
Editor's note: Do you agree with this expert's response? If you have more to share, post it in one of our .bphAaR2qhqA^0@/searchstorage>discussion forums.
This was first published in June 2002