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Quality Awards: What are the best midrange arrays?

Ezine

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Users apparently have a much more favorable impression of midrange arrays than enterprise arrays. In our enterprise array survey, the majority of responses fell between a rating of 4.7 and 5.7 (4.5 is the neutral marker on an 8.0 scale). Average responses for the midrange survey were a point higher, falling between 5.7 and 6.7. For the first time in any of our surveys, a product achieved a category rating above 7.0: StorageTek did it twice, earning a 7.11 for initial product quality and a 7.03 for product features. As impressive as that is, all of the products received high scores, reflecting a high level of satisfaction in a competitive field. Even EMC's Clariion, which was the only product to place in the bottom half in every category, had an overall rating of 5.75, which is substantially above the 4.5 neutral marker. Nevertheless, readers who have followed these Quality Awards will note that EMC had the lowest ranked product in both the enterprise and midrange array surveys.

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The midrange survey results for HDS represented one of the biggest reversals from the enterprise survey. While HDS captured the Quality Award for enterprise arrays, it placed seventh out of the eight ranked midrange products. The biggest drags on HDS' overall score were sales-force competence and technical support. One might think this could be attributed to issues related to resellers, but 68% of respondents noted that they purchased directly from HDS.

Sales-force competence
The sales-force competence category was designed to assess a vendor's ability to sell the proper system. Inappropriate products will result in dissatisfied users. Doug McDaniel, IT director at St. Louis-based Maritz Inc., experienced some disappointment in dealing with EMC's sales force. "They're very aggressive in their sales approach," he says, "and some of the things they promised don't necessarily pan out after the product is on the floor."

But Evans, who also has EMC Clariions in his shop, likes working with EMC and feels the firm anticipates his needs well. "I'm getting notifications of things that I'm thinking about," says Evans, "and I'm getting that information without actually calling them."

In formulating the survey, we surmised that a significant number of systems were acquired through resellers and we wanted to know if this would influence user satisfaction. Only 35% of the systems in our survey were bought through resellers, with the rest purchased directly from the manufacturers. We didn't find any trend with respect to particular resellers, and the data didn't provide any conclusive evidence that one channel or the other resulted in greater satisfaction.

StorageTek, the winner of the sales-force competence category, had a 50/50 split between sales through resellers and direct sales. No vendor had more than 50% of its sales through channels. Sun had the highest percentage of direct sales (81%).

One significant result was that the lowest top and overall scores in our survey were for sales-force competence and technical support. This is an important finding as the scores reflect the "people" aspect of the survey, whereas the other categories (product features, initial quality and reliability) are primarily "technology" issues. Vendors that wish to improve their scores should therefore focus on sales-force competence and technical support.

This was first published in November 2005

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