SD 2003: Gartner storage guru shares storage buying secrets

Noted industry analyst and Gartner research director, Nick Allen, kicked off the Storage Decisions conference Wednesday by telling end users how to put the squeeze on their storage suppliers.

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CHICAGO -- What a difference two years can make. At past Storage Decisions conferences, end users gathered here to learn why they should buy a storage area network. But now that most users are running SANs, the tone of discussion has turned from the nuts and bolts of storage networking to how users can put the squeeze on their storage suppliers.

  
Gartner storage guru offers storage buying tips

Gartner Inc. vice president and research director Nick Allen offered users at the Storage Decisions conference some basic buying tips on how to get the most for their IT dollar. Topping Allen's checklist were the following recommendations:

Never buy under time pressure.

Use a dual supplier policy where feasible.

Don't allow a vendor to bypass your tech staff.

Align the time of the deal with the vendor's timing and sales incentive programs.

Don't show enthusiasm.

Always obtain line-item pricing.

Lean toward purchasing rather than a standard lease if you're planning upgrades or extensions.

Destroy the self-confidence of the sales representative during negotiations.

Nick Allen, noted industry analyst and research director for Gartner Inc., Stamford, Conn., kicked off the conference here Wednesday by offering advice on providing capacity without overbuying.

Topping the list of Allen's storage tips was using more than one hardware and software supplier.

"The most powerful thing you can do is keep competition in your shop," Allen told the audience of several hundred storage managers.

Allen predicted that in 2004, 50% of storage costs will be hardware related and 50% will be "other", meaning software, services and miscellaneous new expenses.

"I'm absolutely amazed when purchasing departments will negotiate the hell out of hardware [purchases] and ignore software," he said.

New things on the rise that are contributing to new non-hardware costs include SAN fabrics, disaster recovery and business continuity, Storage Resource Management (SRM) software and Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) software, to name a few.

"What I see time and time again is users demanding open standards, demanding interoperability. Then they get locked into a vendor for three or four years." Allen said this was particularly true with EMC Corp.'s SRDF software.

End users are facing a dilemma, Allen said. Should they take big steps or small steps? He said users with predictable storage growth should buy capacity in small increments, and those who don't have a handle on how or when their needs will skyrocket should buy big.

New pricing models like capacity on demand and the plummeting cost of reliable disk technology are leaving storage managers with a whole new set of criteria when it comes to buying hardware and software, but buyer beware.

"There are too many products, too many startups and too many players in the industry," Allen said. "While prices are compelling, the market is unstable, and that means trouble. Approach with caution."

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail: Kevin Komiega, News Editor

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