Some may wonder why a request for proposal, or RFP as it's usually called, is important when it comes to NAS devices....
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The answer is that while an RFP isn't the same as a project plan, it can certainly help you define your success criteria in selecting a NAS system.
The goal of an RFP is to boil your vendor choices down to a manageable few, then, based on the criteria in your RFP, pit those vendors in a battle to the death, based on features you've outlined as important. There are no hard and fast rules for an effective RFP, but there are a few generic steps you can take to create a solid RFP and get the NAS device best suited for your environment.
Before starting an RFP, you should have a good idea of what you need. Most vendors will have installed most of their devices in different environments and have a good idea of where their products fit well and where they don't. While such information is valuable in the selection process, it limits you to only one vendor's point of view. By distributing an RFP to multiple vendors, you will get a broader range of situations to consider.
Start your RFP by putting together, in layman's terms, a list of the things you want your device to do. For example, a NAS device will need to connect to multiple VMware servers with no performance loss, or a NAS device should only consume the disk space that files use and nothing more. While you'll have to do a little homework into the technologies currently offered in the NAS space, you don't need to be an expert to put together a list of things you want to buy.
Putting your technical wish-list in simple terms makes it easier for you to match up the techno-speak with real-world execution and for your accounting department to understand when it comes budget time. Your RFP doesn't have to be long and complex. Short and simple will probably yield much better results -- two to three paragraphs and some bullet points should suffice for all but the most complex NAS deployments.
I've made a point here of not suggesting particular technologies, but one specific technology is worthy of any and all RFPs: thin provisioning. Thin provisioning allows you to avoid the over- and under-provisioning issues outlined in the planning tip. You will only consume the disk space you have actually used to store files.
About the author: Tory Skyers is a senior systems engineer for Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors, an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate Affiliates Inc. He frequently speaks at conferences such as Storage Decisions and also contributes regularly to SearchStorage.com's blog called Storage Soup.
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