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Pros and cons of buying a one-vendor storage solution

When buying storage, IT teams often wonder if it is worthwhile to buy a complete package of storage system, management software, data protection and other elements from a single vendor.

Buying everything from one vendor has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages include:

• The solutions are integrated and will work together better than individually acquired products.
• Dealing with a single support organization results in faster resolution of issues and greater concern from the vendor because it has greater responsibility (and greater revenue).
• Cost will be reduced with what is presumed to be a volume purchase.
• There will be fewer vendors to deal with, which takes less time in purchasing and implementing.

The downside includes:

• The costs might be more because customers could end up having to purchase a more expensive component in the package than they would normally select.
• Customers might not get the best individual product available when a bundle is purchased, and buying a bundle might eliminate potentially better solutions from consideration.

Building a complete storage and storage software portfolio has become a major focus in vendor acquisitions. Dell’s recent purchase of Quest Software is a good example. Dell now has storage, storage management, data protection software, and other important software that can be packaged as a complete solution. This makes Dell more competitive with other major vendors who have integrated offerings.

For vendors, selling integrated storage solutions also make sense. These packages bring larger deal sizes, and the amount of money per time invested in the sales opportunity can be much greater. A larger sale also results in a greater footprint (more products sold to a particular customer) for the vendor. With more products (from the integrated solution) installed in a customer environment, there is much greater difficulty for the customer to turn to another vendor. While not a lock-in, there is greater resistance to change vendors.

Judging from my interactions with IT customers, I believe buying bundles from a single vendor will become the prevalent purchasing pattern. The main reason is because the purchase of the integrated solution is simpler for IT than buying multiple products from different vendors. It also requires less training. That simplicity translates to less administration required and less operational expense.

You can expect to see the trend of more integrated solutions continue. For the IT customer, it is important to understand what they may be giving up with a single solution commitment.

Simplifying the operational environment is a constant struggle, and anything that makes buying and using storage less complex is a big help. This Evaluator Group article on storage efficiency has more information on how to optimize storage.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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