Guest Column | May 27, 2010

The Importance of Persistent Hardware and Software Architectures


By Brian Bell, Compellent

For any CIO or IT manager, lurking within the excitement of purchasing a new technology product, there is always the specter of that technology's end of life (EOL). EOL notifications are an unfortunate fact of life. What's more important is how companies communicate EOLs and prepare for it, so that resellers, vendors and customers can minimize resulting annoyances and prevent issues that might wreak havoc on the business and relationships. Without the right strategy to manage product transitions, investments in the technology can be lost, trust in product lines and vendors evaporates, and everyone faces the prospect of starting all over again. It's a costly proposition. However, in the past several years, there have been technology advancements that make it possible for VARs and customers to avoid these EOL issues altogether.

Hardware and Software Persistence — The More Agile, Scalable, and Fluid — The Better

One way to help avoid the EOL quandary is to invest with vendors that not only provide modular and scalable technologies, but also have clear product roadmaps and plans that are communicated to resellers and customers. Technologies with modular designs avoid the need for customers to rip-and-replace existing systems as their needs grow. In the case of data storage solutions, for example, customers can build their systems over time, starting small and only increasing capacity to when business needs, and growing data, demand. Persistent hardware and software architecture in storage means that VARs can better mix different types of drives, like SATA, SAS, Fibre Channel, or SSD; network connectivity, such as Fibre Channel, iSCSI, or FCoE; and other hardware, such as NAS appliances. If done correctly, persistent architectures can also guarantee support and remain compatible with software over the long term, too. For example, VARs will not be forced to push customers to repurchase existing software licenses just to add new tiers of storage, like SSD, into current configurations.

By using truly scalable hardware and software architectures, VARs can easily upgrade customers' technology over time to add new features and capabilities as they become available on the market. Furthermore, systems should not become more difficult to manage, no matter how large they get. This persistent and fluid foundation does not lock organizations into their original hardware choices. Rather, as an organization grows, it can leverage different disk types or network connections, based on ever-changing IT needs or innovations.

In the case of storage solutions, persistence gives customers the ability to implement the advanced, fluid data management technologies the solution needs, like storage virtualization, off-site thin replication, data snapshots, tiered storage strategies and thin provisioning. For instance, a company might require replication to another data center now for disaster recovery, but not a tiered storage environment immediately. When the customer reaches the point where it does need multiple storage tiers, VARs can implement that technology (along with whatever else the company needs), easily and without compromising its original technology investment.

Persistence Pays Off

There are a number of benefits provided both to end users and VARs for embracing storage solutions designed for persistence, not obsolescence. For instance, customer investments are future proofed and ready for next-generation technology standards. Organizations can also take an active role in designing the solution so they get the technology they need at the time, instead of the one the vendor thinks they will need in the future. Furthermore, with hardware persistence, there are no more frustrating and expensive forklift upgrades. Organizations can also more accurately forecast for future purchases, as admins can add to the system only as they need to.

Hardware and software persistence pays off for VARs as well. Not only do customers stay satisfied because they have solutions that meet their needs, but the solution's modularity enables long-term, repeat revenue opportunities for the VAR as customers effortlessly upgrade their systems over time. This ability for resellers to be a consistent provider of solutions creates trust with both the vendor and with the customer, strengthening the relationship over time.

The reinforcement of the VAR-customer relationship does not simply result in more hardware and software sales, but also provides an opportunity for resellers to offer support services. Technical support services can be a consistent and reliable revenue stream, either through in-house offerings, or by selling support for the vendor. Finally, as vendors committed to persistence improve their product lines, VARs can make the right recommendations to their customers knowing that they will not be required to discard of their original investments. As a result, VARs become even more trusted by the end-user. It is this easy and pain-free upgrade path and product strategy that makes the difference for both the reseller and the customer to make the transition.

Turning EOL Into Opportunities

In some instances, EOL notifications can actually present opportunities for VARs. If a vendor announces the EOL of a certain product, resellers of persistent solutions can approach those customers burned by that vendor, and propose a modular offering as an alternative that provides fluid data storage and management. Not only does the VAR gain a new customer, but it also secures a long-term revenue stream through the design of the solution. VARs can also leverage these new relationships to upsell service options and software applications, creating even richer and more diverse sources of revenue, since it is based on hardware, software, and support.

To minimize the frustration, complexity and hidden costs brought on by product lifecyles, VARs should look for vendors with strong track records of flexible, scalable product offerings. As a result of this hardware and software persistence, these vendors should have easily manageable EOL transitions for their products. They should also have a commitment to providing channel partners with a clear product strategy and scalable solutions they can sell to customers, as well as the tools resellers need to make those sales. In the end, persistence pays off.

Brian P. Bell is VP of Sales for Compellent. He previously served as director of business development for the storage vendor. Prior to joining Compellent, Bell served in various positions at Storage Network. He also served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force.