Users put the screws to vendors on SAN costs

SANs may be getting cheaper to buy, but they're now more expensive to own than ever before. Soaring management costs are forcing users to change their ways and "put the screws" to storage vendors.

NEW YORK—There's a crisis in the storage industry and it's called the cost of storage area network (SAN) ownership. That's the message Marc Farley, president of Building Storage Inc., hammered home to users here at the Storage Decisions Conference Tuesday.

Farley, a self-proclaimed "cheapskate" and storage expert, said that the price of buying a storage network is declining, but that the cost of managing and maintaining SANs is "much more than expected."

The end user community has echoed his sentiments. Robert Bellanti, a vice president at Key Bank, a unit of Cleveland-based Key Corp., said asking vendors if they can manage disk arrays from competing companies is a waste of time. "The reality is that there isn't a tool that manages everyone's hardware." After concluding that buying software from hardware vendors was a practice he wanted to avoid, Bellanti set out to find a Storage Resource Management (SRM) tool from a third party software maker to get a handle on the cost of his storage infrastructure. "We knew that a non-hardware company would be more responsive to hardware changes," he said. So Key Bank went with management tools from Storability Software Inc.

Bellanti isn't alone. Steve Rubinow, Chief Technology Officer for Archipelago Holding LLC., was tired of relying on "personal heroics" from his IT staff to keep his data centers up and running. "We needed software to better manage our storage and continue to keep our headcount down." Rubinow opted for software from Veritas Software Corp.

Savvy storage users are quickly adopting SRM and storage management software from third party vendors to improve capacity utilization, keep personnel resources under control and ultimately save money. But some are finding new ways to hold vendors' feet to the fire on price.

Bellanti, for example, demanded a free enterprise software license from Storability so he wouldn't be "nickel-and-dimed" every time he added a terabyte of storage to his environment.

Jerome Wendt, senior information systems analyst at First Data Corp. is following suit. "We rejected any licensing model that's tied to storage capacity." Rather than paying through the nose for more storage, Wendt has tied his licensing costs to the number of servers in his environment. "Servers are much easier to control," he said.

Wendt has overbought storage in the past. He won't do it again. "God help the vendor we select. You can become our vendor of choice, but for nine months we're going to use [your product] and beat it up. If you can't meet our needs we'll start another evaluation process. You've got to deliver. We're going to put the screws to vendors going forward," he said.

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