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Shopping for storage: One vendor or more?

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Single vendor storage environments
In its mixed storage report, Gartner predicts that "consolidation, continuing compatibility issues and staffing shortages will cause multi-vendor storage deployments to decrease 20% by year-end 2008." Gartner identifies the economic benefits of a single-vendor strategy as follows:

  • It eliminates the need to train staff in multiple storage systems.
  • On the operational level, storage administrators don't have to develop and maintain multiple automation scripts.
  • It avoids the need to migrate data between storage systems whenever a different vendor is the low bidder.
  • A vendor is likely to be more responsive to a loyal customer.
By committing to a single vendor, EMC Corp., Halamka was able to streamline his institutions' entire approach to storage and "save about 20%; plus we were able to greatly reduce downtime, which is also costly," he says. In the process, he avoided the finger-pointing encountered when there are multiple vendors.

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You can still come up with a good acquisition price with a single storage vendor, but it will take some effort, starting with training the negotiator. A trained negotiator can achieve a better deal with a vendor than an IT manager who's distracted by other concerns and who must maintain a relationship with the vendor, says Gartner's Passmore. The trained negotiator may be part of the organization's professional purchasing group or an IT person who has received training in large acquisition negotiation.

Not all IT managers agree that trained negotiators can do better in a single vendor situation. "I get a better price than purchasing," says Todd Berube, Windows server engineer for the City of Orlando, FL's Windows servers and storage. Berube is responsible for the city's extensive Windows systems infrastructure. Orlando has standardized on Dell Inc. and EMC for Windows servers and storage. Although the city's purchasing department may have professional negotiators, "I have a better day-to-day relationship with the vendor," Berube says. "I'm purchasing devices every few months. I know the industry and the timing."

This was first published in February 2006

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