In part one of this Masterclass, channel experts discuss information lifecycle management, and where resellers fit into this growing storage market.
MEET THE PANEL
Chris Atkins storage marketing manager at Sun
Ian Bond business development manager storage at Cisco
Jon Collins industry analyst at Quocirca
Dave Drennan storage specialist at Repton
Laurence James marketing manager disk solutions at StorageTek
Nigel Lambert marketing manager at Zycko
Howard Roberts general manager of Redstor (Dublin)
Roger Smith managing director of Solid State Solutions
Mark Stevens sales director at Network Appliance
Paul Trowbridge marketing manager at Brocade
Why has information lifecycle management (ILM) come to the fore now and why is it important?
James: We are seeing financial directors questioning new storage acquisitions. They are tightening their belts and going back to the administrators and saying, "Why on earth do you want this extra tranche of storage? Can we delay it?"
There is pressure now on primary disk storage acquisitions in the open systems environment that has not existed in the past. Economic conditions are driving that. It's about the right data, at the right time, the right place, the right cost.
Where are the opportunities for the channel?
James: There are huge professional services opportunities to do things such as data profiling. I see that as a key starting point: getting customers to understand their data, where it needs to reside, how they are going to manage it.
Also, storage resource management [SRM] and hierarchical storage management [HSM] tools are now maturing and that really is the glue that ties the hardware together.
Is it purely cost-reduction that's driving ILM?
Collins: No. The storage vendors have hit a glass ceiling with the technology and they are looking for new ways of adding value and being able to provide different types of storage. Basic storage is boring. People say, "Why do we need all this storage?" and the vendors say, "If you buy our storage you'll be able to use it better."
So is ILM just another way of trying to sell storage?
Collins: I think so, but it's not the only thing that's happening. There are a number of evolutions taking place in storage. One is the move from storage as a dynamic set of commodities that can be used in various ways, and that's what ILM is all about.
Another evolution is storage as a product to storage as a service, and the third is from proprietary storage to an open standard. I don't think storage companies can take one of those and say, "We're the best." They have to take all three.
Atkins: There are a couple of additional things. On top of the cost reduction issue and the data explosion we've got the regulatory issue. Companies are realising that data deletion is a corporate responsibility.
On PCs we have little icons that say 'My Documents', but it's the company that ends up in court if you're doing something wrong with the data. So there's a corporate governance, compliance, regulation issue. We've got a cost-reduction issue and a management issue.
The danger is that if we say the solution is ILM, that's like saying the solution is virtualisation, which is a technology looking for a problem. This is where resellers come in.
ILM is a set of technologies that is incomplete, and what the customer needs is reality: solutions. We can talk about massive numbers of tiers of data; the job of the reseller is to add value to the technology, to understand the customers' reality and give them something that will save them money.
Collins: Is data profiling something that has to happen manually now but will become an automated part of storage management?
Smith: I think that will happen once the customer has decided what policies it wants to apply. We are at a stage where there are fundamental changes to the way we look at storage. These different layers will enable us to look, not just at disk and tape but at near-line, off-line and archiving in a different way.
The problem is management of the data. We have customers with multiple tens of terabytes of data. How do you manage that?
Drennan: SRM is being pushed by vendors now, but there is demand out there already. We are not just managing the multi-terabyte projects, we're doing SRM projects in the cupboard under the stairs. The problems exist in the SME data centre, and people understand that data is core to their business and that there are legal compliance and management issues.
Roberts: People have pushed back from the data explosion now. They want to get rid of information, not keep it, but with the regulatory issues now you are going to have to start keeping all of it. But they know that just adding more disk does not solve the problem.
ILM is not a way to sell storage, it's a way for hardware companies to move into software because that's where the real value is now.
Are vendors selling to customers receptive to the concept of ILM?
Roberts: A lot of vendors don't supply multiple tiers of storage and don't want to tell people the [ILM] story because it's not in their interest to do that.
Stevens: As a vendor, I have to disagree. If we don't do it someone else will, so we can't ignore that market. Cost is driving the market. The cost of storage is getting prohibitive, but customers don't want the complexity of HSM and virtualisation because of the cost of managing it all.
Trowbridge: We're in a heterogeneous world now and you have to pick the areas that are most important and use that as your starting point, rather than trying to grab everything. There is just so much. Where do you start and who do you turn to? Who can manage all of those different environments and manufacturers?
Lambert: We're driving the open systems approach to storage, virtualisation and tiered storage, and a lot of customers are buying into that.
Roberts: What's so difficult is that it's not like-for-like now. The data that's held is vastly different on these systems now. There is a plethora of data and it's a management task in itself to figure out what it is and what the policy should be around user documents.
It's very hard to do that, and trying to force people to put data where it needs to be - onto cheaper storage - is not easy. It's a bigger headache than just giving the physical solution. Business practice comes into it as well.
Atkins: IT directors sit up when you talk about how not all data is equal and how much you are wasting storing that four-year-old email in the same ways as you are storing today's emails. It is such an easy-to-grasp concept and it is very easy to initiate projects in customers. The resellers have a wonderful opportunity - because they know the customer's business - to start the conversation.
Their role is, first, to get ILM in as an infrastructure, as opposed to just the solution to the first project you put it on. You must be able to grow the infrastructure. The second point is to remember data is available only if the application is up and running. The reseller has to deliver integrated solutions that take into account both the data and the applications.
Stevens: The absolute starting point has to be the policy. Organisations have to get their business processes in order, and that's where the reseller comes in. The other point is that the second- and lower-tier companies are facing the reality [of ILM] now, and as a manufacturer we haven't got the reach so we need help to get to those markets.
Bond: Is there an opportunity for resellers to offer that as a service to SMEs?
Drennan: People still don't like letting go of the data. We're offering in-house solutions and they are out there. It's not as complex as you might think when you drill down on it. If you look at it logically, it's not rocket science; it's putting policies and business practices into IT.
James: One or two resellers we know have been working to get knowledge leadership in areas of regulation in financial services, and that's a $16bn storage market. To start there and understand those requirements is leading to some success for them. They are applying ILM to the requirements that are emerging from those regulations.
Are we going to need more partnership between storage vendors in the future?
Stevens: That's already happening with the protocols and standards. You have to exist with each other, or people are just going to turn their back on you.
Drennan: Competition between vendors is healthy; it encourages innovation. But also, as a reseller, we want to put in a solution and the vendors will be fighting to be a part of a cross-vendor solution. The APIs [application programming interfaces] will all need to link in. If they don't play ball they are not going to be part of that solution.
Atkins: Instead of pretending that we have the R&D muscle to develop a complete storage portfolio, vendors like Hewlett Packard and Sun are taking products from almost everybody else in the industry and integrating them into our own product set. We all depend on compatibility with each other.
Collins: Isn't it more that the battle is just moving up to the software layer?
Atkins: I don't believe all the value is moving to the software but it is becoming more important. The choices in the hardware are rationalising, but people still will be making choices between server, vendors, disk and tape.
Collins: But there aren't many USPs in storage hardware now, but there are in software. You still want to sell hardware.
Bond: The value of our proposition is around our ability to integrate products.
Roberts: No hardware vendor has the ILM solution end to end, and they never will. It will always be a combination, and the real fun of ILM is in the integration of all those different components to make a 'greasy' system. You have to have an application to drive the sale of the disk.
If we go down the integration route won't storage management be engulfed by network management? Collins: It's all the same stuff that the network management companies developed four or five years ago.
Trowbridge: We've got products out there today that are the next generation of San infrastructure: an intelligent platform where elements of storage management function can reside, taking it out of the array, out of the host. In a heterogeneous environment you don't want multiple instances of the same software, you want that functionality embedded into the network itself.
We've invested tremendous amounts in developing that capability and providing that infrastructure layer that vendors can use. That then goes back to the channel and the integration opportunities open up again.
Stevens: It is becoming more network-centric.
Bond: That's just part of the solution, though, isn't it? The actual solution is always going to be heterogeneous, and I can see part of the policy being in the network device. But it will be the complete thing.
If you look at network management as an analogy, we've been working on that for 12 years and I doubt if there is any one company that would claim there is one application set that does it all even now. The same, I am sure, will be true of storage management.
The high ground at the moment is pulling as much of that management into our software as we can and manage as many components of the storage as we can. However, I would still see resellers as having to eventually integrate the end-to-end solution, and for SMEs you will need an almost fixed-price solution.
James: That will happen, there will be end-to-end solutions. The real work for the reseller will be in the profiling. The business has to make a decision on the value of the data.
Collins: While policy-based management might be the aspiration, if all we can deliver is ILM - understanding which data we are using right now and sticking it on the right disks - then that's already quite a lot of progress.
Smith: It takes a lot of buy-in from the customer. They are spending the money and it needs to have buy-in from senior management. They have got to see that it is going to give them benefits and getting that is half of the battle.
You have to build on your relationship and be an evangelist for that solution. It would be rare for an SME to have the vision and the forethought to say, "Let's put an ILM system in."
Is the opportunity today only really in the high end then?
Smith: I think there may be an opportunity with SMEs for an appliance-type solution. But then they've got to trade off whether they put that in or just buy more disks, or just put a tape in.
Drennan: But is the SME's data any less important than the corporation's? Not to them it isn't. The actual size of the business is not the issue, it's how important the data is to the business. We are all talking about ILM, but has it affected the way we are placing new solutions? Is it in your mind when you are working on new projects?
Smith: You have to go in with that approach. If you value the relationship with the customer, you can't take it down a dead-end street. You have to give it the maximum number of options down the road to ensure that it gets value in the long term.
Drennan: We have not really changed the way we sell solutions. ILM and SRM are things we aren't selling from the start. We have been selling them as a fix for problems that have developed over many years. It's not something we have led with.
Atkins: There is a good opportunity with new systems where the customer is under cost pressure and has only got tier-one storage. If you sell your system with only tier-two storage and integrate ILM with their existing applications, you will dramatically drive down the cost of deploying new systems.
Part 2 of this Masterclass can be found here
Brocade (0118) 965 3789
Cisco (020) 8824 1000
Network Appliance (020) 8756 6700
Quocirca (01285) 771 433
Redstor 00 353 (0) 1 294 8526
Repton (020) 8894 9000
Solid State Solutions (0870) 777 6111
StorageTek (01483) 737 333
Sun (0800) 731 0658
Zycko (01285) 868 500
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