Chris Atkins storage marketing manager at Sun.
Ian Bond business development manager for storage at Cisco.
Jon Collins industry analyst at Quocirca.
Dave Drennan storage specialist at Repton.
Laurence James marketing manager for disk solutions at StorageTek.
Nigel Lambert marketing manager at Zycko.
Howard Roberts general manager at Redstor (Dublin).
Roger Smith managing director at Solid State Solutions.
Mark Stevens sales director at Network Appliance.
Paul Trowbridge marketing manager at Brocade.
With information lifecycle management (ILM) now part of the story, how much storage do firms really need now?
Atkins: I think there is a good opportunity with new systems where the customer is under cost pressure - as they all are now - and they have only tier-one storage and you are selling in a new system.
If you sell only tier-two storage and their current applications have ILM integrated then you drive down the cost of deployment dramatically. One customer we have has eight terabytes [TB] of HDS storage and that's enough for most businesses.
They don't envisage having to buy any more disk because they have 30TB of near-line storage and ILM integrated and anything that's more than 90 days old is no longer current.
They are buying near-line storage to expand the data farm and reduce costs. That sort of story needs to get out there.
What will that near-line storage be now, typically?
James: We've been looking at this and we see a drive to get more of the data closer to the processor - on-line or 'in-line' as we have started to call it now. So you have a tier of storage that is on-line to the processor but comes in at a much lower cost - typically built around ATA disk - and we see that as a big growth area.
It's another layer but the price point is a quarter to a sixth of the cost. We are seeing disk-to-disk backup because recovery is now much more important.
They are looking at a different tier of storage but they don't want to pay top dollar for primary-level storage, but they want those backups nearer to the processor.
Stevens: We're seeing that, too. We talk about everything being data-centric but when we talk about secondary storage now, what is it we are referring to?
Roberts: It's applications-centric now.
So does it matter what the secondary level of storage is?
James: That's down to business policy, the service-level agreement for that application and your needed time to recovery.
Roberts: There are differences in every business; there are one or two critical applications, two or three more that are semi-critical and a few others you can live without for a couple of hours or days.
The problem with tiered storage is that you have to look at the business and say, 'What are the real drivers?' Post-9/11, everybody started talking about disaster recovery and thinking we would have to replicate everything off the premises. But you really don't need to do that.
You can recover [data] from tape and then you look at smarter ways of keeping core applications running.
Stevens: That's what we are talking about with ILM now. We're looking at what people are doing. Email archiving is a huge market; there is the compliance side of it all, and backup is coming to the fore now. Time-to-backup is one issue; the backup window is shrinking.
The other thing is recovery. With the amount of storage we are talking about now, putting it out to tape is a concern, because getting it back from that medium is going to take time. So people want to use disk storage.
We are seeing a lot of disaster recovery, backup and recovery driving the market now, and that's all some of our resellers are doing now. They are going to firms and looking at backup and recovery and disaster recovery.
Why hasn't disaster recovery taken off sooner?
Stevens: Cost. People just can't afford to do it.
Roberts: There is a price point for everything. When you talk about ILM to customers, they say they'd love to be able to do it but it has to reach the stage where the benefit doesn't cost so much that you can't get on board.
This is why it's very hard to jump in and say, 'I'm going to embrace this across my whole business,' because the entry price point is just too high. You have to pick your worst problem areas, and for 99.99 per cent of people that's email.
Exchange servers drive everybody's working day now. Making applications faster to recover is a big area now, not so much in making it faster to backup.
James: We are certainly seeing that - much more disk-to-disk backup and recovery.
Collins: If you can buy 16TB for the same price as 8TB, people are going to buy all 16TB and then take an on-line copy as they go along. Then if the one goes down, they have the other 8TB; then if 24TB becomes the same price as 8TB, they will take two copies. They won't stop at 8TB.
Atkins: ILM as part of an infrastructure starts allowing you to do things differently. We will have succeeded when ILM goes in as part of every system, no matter how big or small. At the moment it's a big company issue because it's difficult and not integrated enough.
Drennan: Is there going to be a place for solid-state storage as a higher tier? Or will it be too expensive?
Smith: When we first started it was $1,000 per megabyte; now you are talking about $60 per megabyte.
Atkins: If I have paid £10m for my business intelligence software and my queries run in half the time on solid state, using ILM, and that's cost me £100,000 for a bit of solid state, then that's fantastic value.
Bond: It comes back to policy again. If the information is important enough for it to be handled that quickly then you'll put it onto that tier of storage.
Atkins: That's why ILM depends on standards. You need to be able to plug these devices in and run then under a single management program.
Roberts: It will be different for every business as well. This class of storage will not suit everyone. That's what we do - you have to pick the right hardware and software to piece the framework together. It is called ILM in the end but it's a mix of products, services and consultancy.
Smith: I would have thought a pre-cursor to ILM is an SRM [storage resource management] process. You have to know what data you've got, how often it's being accessed, what it is, where it is and how many duplicates there are before you can go down the ILM road.
Roberts: But is that sold as a service or a product? A lot of people don't see the long-term value in SRM because they see the first instant snapshot view of their world as enough for what they want, so they prefer to buy it as a service and take a snapshot every six months.
When SRM starts to integrate with storage provisioning, when it's properly policy-driven, that's where virtualisation starts to take shape and have value.
At this stage it is too bitty and nobody is prepared to embrace all of it. But we've had some very good success stories already.
Lambert: We need to have all these vendors' systems working together first, though. ILM can only work properly with virtualisation.
Roberts: Virtualisation has become a dirty word. The products do far more than people realise - they have too wide a breadth in what they cover.
They are almost like the panacea for all storage management issues in one box. There are these incredible tools such as FalconStor and DataCore and Veritas that seem to offer all this stuff, but pretty much all of these products are sold for a specific purpose, such as having a problem with storage provisioning.
That's just one aspect of what they do. Once they get them into place and start extending what they can do with them, it becomes clever.
How much of storage reseller business is coming from consultancy and policy design and that side now, and how much from selling product?
Smith: I think resellers in the storage business realised a while ago that there was not as much money to be made in the hardware side as there was in software and services.
The tin became a commodity almost, and services, support, software integration and the continuing business from that is where it's gone. And that's where the manufacturers are going as well, of course.
Bond: Where are the early market opportunities?
Roberts: Pharmaceuticals is one. Any industry where there is a lot of research being done.
Drennan: The Data Protection Act is going to affect a lot of companies as well.
Bond: What about the requirement for medical records to go online? That must have put tremendous pressure even on local GPs' surgeries, and there must be a storage opportunity there for resellers that know that business.
Atkins: The difference between our most and least successful resellers in the past three years or so has been those who thought their business was taking out the Sun brand-value to customers versus those who thought that was our responsibility, and that their added-value was something different.
Those who only take Sun out are likely to be undercut. Those with their own brand-value can't be undercut. ILM and the research and the profiling of data that is required make it a very good area for resellers to focus on.
Do you need to invest a lot in getting into the ILM arena, or is it just a natural evolution for storage resellers?
Roberts: I would say it's been natural. We have been watching it for several years and we know what is going to happen - it is just a matter of when it hits as a standard. Eventually it will come in as something across the board for all firms, large and small, but it will take time.
Take virtualisation: it is there but it's a leap of faith at the moment. It's like anything; it just takes a few success stories.
Collins: We seem to be reaching a consensus among vendors and resellers that ILM is the way to go, and that's half the education of the market. We have now perhaps reached the point where it is going to become a lot easier to educate the market.
Drennan: It's a logical sale now, because information management and compliance issues can be solved with one solution.
You are providing an auditable trail and taking away a lot of the headaches of the data growth. I don't think it's going to be a hard sale to the right customers.
Roberts: Giving it a name makes it harder to sell. It's easier to sell as a concept, I think, rather than selling it as ILM.
Collins: ILM is a concept that's about making the best of what you've got or making the best of what we are going to give you. It gives the customer a value-driven solution.
Smith: What we don't want is people coming in without the necessary education to sell this kind of concept.
But isn't that what's going to happen? People will come into the market if it takes off.
Collins: Let's face it, you could package synchronisation as ILM, you could package backup and restore as ILM, you could package some content management as ILM. It's all part of it.
James: The key is going to be defining a set of pillars for ILM and what actually sits within it, so we can get standards around it. Otherwise it could be anything. It is a concept, not a solution.
Stevens: It comes back to the fundamental premise that all storage is not equal; all information is not equal.
So what is the opportunity around ILM for resellers now? Do you have to be there already or can you come into this market?
Roberts: You have to be a business process person. Everything we have sold this year has been based on a good business case. It's focused around storage but most of it comes down to the management of data.
We sell services around that and show how to bullet-proof them, manage them and keep the application available - but not the applications itself.
Drennan: If you have not come across any of these issues already then you won't be here tomorrow. People are doing this now and it's something we come across every day. I think most resellers are addressing these issues already.
Stevens: Certainly, generalised resellers don't do very well in this market. You need to have a focus on these issues, on policies and evaluations and looking to provide a storage platform. It's not for the generalised resellers.
Trowbridge: When you look at storage networking, one of the questions has always been why the general networking guys aren't in here. It's because they don't understand storage, and that's been the challenge we've had.
If you don't understand storage it is very difficult, because resellers don't have the money to invest in new skills.
Lambert: The storage and the datacoms channels have been totally separate but we are experiencing quite a lot of success taking open systems to the Cisco channel at the moment, and these are resellers that have no experience of storage. We are delivering revenue through datacoms guys that have never sold storage before.
Atkins: Systems resellers will be supplying the whole system and they are feeling pressure because the storage knowledge is not good enough, and my job is to make that message strong enough for them to take out to their customers.
Drennan: When the storage came out of the server it became a specialist area. The resellers that are going to succeed are the ones that can understand the systems, the networking and the storage side.
James: The resellers that will be the winners will be the ones that understand the business processes, but it is up to us as vendors to have programmes in place that can help resellers develop knowledge around ILM.
Part 1 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 (0118) 377 6500
Repton (020) 8894 9000
Solid State Solutions (0870) 777 6111
StorageTek (01483) 737 333
Sun (0800) 731 0658
Zycko (01285) 868 500
Highlander MD Steve Brown tells CRN about the skills he learned on the pitch and brought to the boardroom
Reports suggest Dell is pursuing a straightforward IPO, contradicting existing plans to buy out tracking stock holders
Analysts predict upturn in PC market next year, but 2018 to remain plagued by components shortages
Neil Sawyer claims he has 'never seen so many conversations about a new method of investing in workplace technology'