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Writing the Specification
This will likely be the most difficult part of any procurement process. For large, complex procurements, hundreds of pages might be written. These specifications are generally divided into six parts. Sometimes these are separated into two different documents: one technical document for the benchmark and one for the remaining information. The six general parts of the specification are as follows:
- How to respond to the bid, ask questions, and the bid requirements
- Background on the procurement and site(s)
- Description of what hardware and software you require
- Description of the overall environment as well as environmental factors such as power and cooling
- Cost proposal
- Benchmark description and the rules
How to Respond
This part of the document specifies issues such as:
- The number of pages a response is allowed – Vendors will and can inundate you with paper. It is always a good idea in large procurements to set limits
- The font size and page settings for the response – Believe me when I contend this is quite important. I have written responses with small margins and 8-point type, and I have even heard of one response in 6 point type and eighth of an inch margins
- How questions are asked and who they are to be directed to – You do not want vendors calling everyone in the organization to ask questions. Also, in some cases, you’ll want to document the questions and provide them to all of the vendors.
- When the benchmark and proposal are due – To the hour, minute, and second, and of course, the location they’re due to
If you clearly document these requirements, the number of questions will be reduced and the review of the responses will be simplified.
Background on the Procurement and Site(s)
It’s useful to clearly state what you are trying to do and why you are trying to do it. This is especially important for vendors that do not know much about your site and your business requirements. Clearly stating this type of information puts new vendors on a more even playing field with any vendors that do know your environment. This is especially important if you are doing a purchase for multiple sites in different locations.
In this section it’s important to clearly state the maintenance expectations. If you have a site in Key West, Florida, for example, and expect a 4-hour maximum response time, and a vendor cannot meet the requirement, they should know this before spending any time working on the benchmark.
Description of What Hardware and Software You Require
The benchmark instructions must include a description of the hardware and software required to run the benchmark. This may include items such as:
- C/C++ compiler to run the benchmark code
- SQL tools
- File Systems/Volume Managers/HSM (Hierarchical Storage Management)
- Storage definitions
- Fibre channel switches
It’s only fair to the vendors to provide a specific checklist of software that they will need as part of the benchmark.
Software is often purchased during storage procurements to manage, monitor, and fully utilize the new system. This may include some of the same items used to run the benchmark, but usually includes additional items such as SANs and systems management and monitoring software.