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Dell bundles storage assessment services

Dell offers three prepackaged services to help SMBs quickly assess problems and find solutions related to storage for server virtualization, backup and recovery, and data management.

Dell Inc. is continuing its small and medium-sized business (SMB) storage push with a set of three prepackaged storage assessment and deployment services. The services focus on storage for server virtualization, backup and recovery, and data management.

"The goal is not to build an army of consultants," said Paul Kaeley, Dell storage consulting practice leader. "We plan to leverage tools and other ways to reach users that make services lower touch, nondisruptive and repeatable."

The assessment service packages are divided into three buckets: the Storage for Server Virtualization Assessment; the Backup, Restore and Archive Assessment; and the Data Management and Storage Technology Assessment, all designed to align IT with business. All of the services use the same process: a conference with a Dell representative at the customer site, a measurement of the environment using Dell software tools to run diagnostic tests, a design of a new storage environment based on those tests and help with implementation.

The services cost between $10,000 and $30,000 per engagement depending on the customer's environment. An entry-level plan would start at around 5 TB, according to Kaeley.

Kaeley gave examples of some of the measurements used for diagnosing problems. "In the case of backup, the tools would tell us how long the backups are taking, what the backup environment looks like and the type of data being backed up," he said.

A typical engagement will last between four and five days, he said. The diagnostic software is Dell's, but no IP from the $1.4 billion acquisition of EqualLogic Inc. in November is a part of the service, either in the diagnostic tools or the customer service representatives doing the on-site visits, Kaeley said.

If users want assessment services for aspects of their environment other than those covered in the new packages, such as disaster recovery, Dell will work with users on those assessments as well, Kaeley added.

Services are "the next frontier" in the storage market, according to Kaeley. Dell is joining CommVault Inc., Pillar Data Systems Inc., as well as several disaster recovery, e-discovery and archiving vendors in wrapping new assessment and deployment services around storage hardware and software. For Dell, it's part of a plan to simplify storage products for SMBs that also includes things like "SAN-ready servers" preoutfitted with software and host bus adapters (HBA) at the Dell factory. "Over the years, the products themselves have been focused on standardization and innovation, while services have been left lacking in those two areas," he said.

According to Forrester Research senior analyst Stephanie Balaouras, simplified and standardized services will find an underserved market at small and medium-sized companies. "There's an appetite for storage services, but companies are weary of long engagements that last for six months and the end result is a PowerPoint with a bunch of meaningless platitudes," she said. "What I like about [Dell's services] is that there is an emphasis on consulting engagements that are short in duration and the recommendations are useful and actionable."

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