Magazine Article | December 1, 1998

Selling Storage Software Correctly

Vendors of storage software discuss common errors VARs make which cost them and their customers money.

Business Solutions, December 1998

Sell The Software That Meets Customer Needs
One common theme echoed by many storage software vendors is that VARs must select software that will meet the needs of the customer now and in the future. "Customers who have installed storage systems are happy at first, but then find retrieval performance starts to deteriorate as usage and storage needs increase. This is when the users start screaming," states Tom Rossi, public relations manager at Kofax. "If you are selling to a company with many users at a large site, you have to make sure the storage software is flexible and scalable enough to maintain performance at different levels of use. A VAR can't assume that if the software works well with 10 gigabytes (GB) of data, that it will work well with 500 GB of data."

Lynn Hogg, director of sales and marketing at iXOS Software advises VARs to thoroughly examine the features and functionality of the software before selling it to a customer. "VARs need to compare the software products, look at the functionality that really makes a difference, and ask the tough questions," states Hogg. "VARs are telling us that their customers' networks are growing at tremendous rates. The jukeboxes and towers installed for storage on those networks are serving hundreds of users and many applications concurrently. The problem is that very few storage management software products can actually handle these types of environments and do it well."

Understand What You Are Selling
VARs should understand the applications for which the customer will be using the storage software and select the correct media. Customer data that may be presented in a court of law, an image of a contract for example, could be stored using WORM (write once read many) technology. Unlike CD-Rewritable (CD-RW), WORM data cannot be altered after it is stored, which is one of the legal requirements for presenting stored data in court.

"The biggest mistakes VARs make is not understanding the differences between the different storage technologies," states Mahesh Chandra Rao, director of information technology at Mitsubishi. "There is WORM, CD-R (CD-Recordable), CD-RW, and many more. VARs must understand the customer's applications and then suggest the appropriate software. Different storage technologies are more suited for different vertical markets and VARs need to know this."

Don't Confuse The Customer
"In a lot of cases, VARs confuse the end user by discussing details of the storage file system," states Dan Lucarini, vice president of marketing at IMR. "Discussions about pre-fetching, read-ahead cache, buffers, etc., will complicate the end user's understanding. End users, by and large, do not want to know how the VAR "makes the sausage." The end users just wants to know where their files are located."

Richard Game, vice president of sales and marketing at KOM, Inc. adds, "VARs make a big mistake in assuming that storage is complicated. With the right software, storage is simple." He says appropriate software can allow a 600 GB jukebox to appear as a drive letter on the user's screen. The software can also make the jukebox behave like a hard disk drive.

Know What You Are Buying
Several vendors argued that VARs buying storage software should check for specific features before purchasing it. "There are several areas that a VAR should avoid when buying storage software," states Mike Johnson, business development manager for Tracer Technologies. "The software should not be proprietary which doesn't support all types of storage media. It should not require a lot of programming to set up or use the system. The software should also be able to support additional requests for data when users are added to the system."

Richard Game of KOM, Inc. stresses that the software is the most important aspect of any storage system. "The software is what makes the hardware perform and should be the primary issue in the decision process when purchasing a storage system," states Game.