Managing Storage Growth, Part 2: Avoiding Vendor Lock-in


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It can be difficult to gain perspective on storage growth and how to manage it. One of the most common mistakes end users make is deciding to purchase storage at the end of a lease contract or when there is a large development project looming on the horizon. The added pressure can result in short cuts in product evaluation and can also lower the end user's negotiating power with vendors. So what can end users do to avoid these pitfalls?

Planning ahead is the first step, says John Lallier, vice president of technology at FalconStor, but there are things end users can do even if they find themselves in a jam.

"If an end user is in this situation, they should not compound the problem by committing to purchase storage and storage services from the same disk vendor," says Lallier. "When using storage services from a hardware vendor, these services work only with the disks in the vendor's storage array, resulting in vendor lock-in, leaving the user with no room for negotiation."

Lallier says end users should purchase storage services from a neutral party — that way, they can negotiate with a large pool of disk vendors, purchasing only capacity and avoiding vendor lock-in.

Eran Farajun, executive vice president of Asigra Inc., says that as soon as the original purchase is made, end users should specify that the storage infrastructure be open so that data can be moved to an alternative platform. "End-users can also purchase storage infrastructure from more than one vendor, and introduce a software layer above the storage to manage it," he says.

End users also tend to become locked into a specific vendor because they purchase a homogeneous solution that was "sold" to them as a heterogeneous solution.

Zophar Sante vice president of marketing and development at Sanrad, says that there are few truly "open" solutions, so users continually return to the same manufacturer for additional services and products. He believes it is very important for end users to understand what is available, what is reliable, and what will work within their environment.

Another suggestion Sante offers is that end users stay abreast of what's new in the storage arena by continually researching new companies and technologies. "The key for end users is to call the vendor directly and discuss their specific requirements with the vendor's solution architect or engineer," he says. "Most storage vendors have technical people who can assist in determining if a specific application will run on a specific platform."

Sante also suggests that end users get references from the vendor of other end users who purchased that same product to make sure that the product works as advertised. And, he says, end users should always request a money-back guarantee from the vendor so that if the product does not perform as advertised, it can be returned without a hassle. In other words, get the product in-house and try it. Sante suggests that the best negotiating stance end users have is to get a competitive product or technology in-house and see if it will do the job.

Performing A Business Impact Analysis Is Also Key

Performing a business impact analysis (BIA) before purchasing a storage solution can help end users improve business continuity. Lallier says a BIA is definitely a good idea, and adds that end users should have three main goals in mind when performing a BIA:

  1. Make sure the storage solution is compatible with the existing storage infrastructure (HBAs, switches, etc.).
  2. Qualify the storage solution to ensure that it is reliable and matches the SLA of the intended applications.
  3. Make sure that the performance of the storage solution is adequate for the applications.
Scott McLeod, director of professional services for MaXXan, agrees that performing a BIA is the way to go, and says that end users should identify and quantify risks, prioritize mitigating factors and classify associated data and devise appropriate counter-measures.

Page 2: Backup and Recovery is Another Planning Issue

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