QUESTION: How can customers best evaluate the various "new and improved" storage management offerings currently flooding the market place? What questions should they ask? What level of functionality should they demand of vendors?
ANSWER: Well, the first step is to know what you are looking for. Determine the key characteristics you need in a specific segment of storage management (virtualization, storage resource management, data management) and then map that into what vendors say they can deliver. Everyone should be asking how storage management vendors plan to handle device-level and software-level interoperability. You would be surprised how many vendors really don't have solid stories here yet so ask a lot of questions about support of your specific environment.
Considering the average size of the companies selling storage management software today, evaluate vendors on their abilities to offer solid support. A number of smaller companies have taken innovative steps to make sure customers get strong support including outsourcing support to larger professional service integrators such as IBM Global Services or StorageTek. Make sure they have an answer on this before you sign a PO.