Negotiating for support


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Is stocking spare parts a wise investment?

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One way to speed your response to an emergency is to keep spare components onsite; if a component fails, simply pop in the spare part. Irvine, CA-based InteleNet Communications Inc. purchased a spare controller, power supply and disks when it acquired its first iSCSI array. However, storage failures have been so rare that InteleNet is sitting on an unused spare controller that won't work with its latest iSCSI SAN. Hello, eBay.

Modern storage equipment, with the possible exception of moving parts such as disk drives, is remarkably reliable. "In our two years of experience [with EqualLogic Inc. iSCSI arrays], failures are very rare," says Stein. And when something does fail, it's very easy to replace components, so InteleNet stocks its own spare parts (see "Is stocking spare parts a wise investment?," at right). "We know how to read documentation," says Stein. "We've saved a lot of money by not buying service."

According to the CEO of a small storage vendor, support is a profit center for big vendors who routinely manipulate support prices to boost product sales. "Small vendors, especially in recent years, have been offering three-year warranties with free support because they are desperate to win business," he says.

With the high reliability of today's storage, support contracts are increasingly lucrative. "Just do the math," says Mike Karp, senior analyst, Enterprise Management Associates, Boulder, CO. "If the vendor is getting an extra 18% or 20% each year, it adds up. And that percentage is based on the list price, not on a lower purchase price that might have been negotiated."

There are several options for organizations that want to reduce or eliminate storage service costs. A few, like InteleNet, are confident enough in their in-house technical skills and the general reliability of the equipment to go it alone. Many are buying arrays with extended free-service warranties. Others are turning to hardball negotiations to chip away at the cost of service contracts. Playing vendors against support costs from third-party companies usually results in lower support costs.

This was first published in May 2007

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