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Storage software tools can be too independent

I recently spoke with a storage software vendor promoting a product that was an independent storage management and reporting tool. The functionality it performed was impressive. There were high-value capabilities that a storage administrator could find useful. The product ticked many of the boxes for what was needed by a storage administrator.

But, it was really a standalone product. It required a separate physical server for installation. It did not integrate with any top-level management software or any other real-time monitoring software. There was no link to any other storage management tools. The product had a narrow focus. It did one thing, but it did it well. I just got this visual image that I had one type of screwdriver given to me but I had to go find another whole box of tools to fix the car and keep it running.

The vendor had great pride in what the product did and that was understandable. The term “best in class” fit the product. But it was only one screwdriver. The tool would be useful, but the scope of managing storage is much bigger than that.

There was opportunity for the product. There would be IT storage administrators who needed that specific tool. The specialists that would use an independent tool are primarily in the high-end of the enterprise market. The lower segments of the industry typically have fewer unique specialists. The administrators there have multiple responsibilities, which in many cases now include server virtualization administration, operating system, networking and storage.

A tool that can work in an environment where the administrator is not necessarily focused on storage and does not have the specialist training would be much more useful. How this reconciles with the “best in class” designation may cause a rethinking of the parameters applied to that definition.

It comes down to being uncompromising in the way the tool operates versus making it work for a broader segment of the market. If there are enough sales of an independent product, the vendor will continue with this method. What constitutes enough sales depends on the vendor and the price of the product. The determination about making the product work in a more integrated environment has many considerations – additional development time required, changes that occur outside of the vendor’s control, which integrated environments to target, etc.

For the IT customer, the evaluation of storage management processes and tools needs to include the different offerings available and the needs for the environment. “Best in class” may not always be best in the environment.

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

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