Inner space

The storage market is awash with confusing acronyms and competing technologies - a veritable minefield for the unsuspecting IT manager setting up a datacentre. Imthishan Giado finds out what customers need to know.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  October 21, 2007

"I ask my suppliers to come and tell me what's happening in the market these days. I know a few who occasionally come for meetings and keep talking afterwards; they're not entirely focused on selling. However, the percentage is not that high. Most people only want to sell and get some money," says GV Rao, corporate IT manager of Dubai Refreshments.

Rao is one of many CIOs in the region who have taken the plunge and recently installed a datacentre. Storage is obviously a key factor in the datacentre equation, but with a variety of technologies available, it can be difficult to decide which is appropriate for the implementation. Despite his self-proclaimed modest requirements, Rao still took the time to study which product would best match his datacentre and advises CIOs to avoid being caught unawares.

How many IT managers or database administrators are religiously, once a month or once in 15 days, just restoring a tape to see whether it’s working or not?

"When you are putting your dollar in, you should know what you are putting it in for. Being at the most senior level, a CIO may not really have hands on experience. But at least when's he talking to the vendors or the suppliers, he should know what he's talking about, he should know what he's expecting the supplier to give," says Rao.

Product vendors are united in agreement with Rao that the level of technological awareness among storage customers in the region is quite low - although they differ in exactly how much technical information the customer should be required to know. Fawaz Qaadan, technology services manager at HP takes the view that educating customers about the vagaries of NAS or SAN is unnecessary.

"Many times customers say, great - but where do I start? We offer something called the maturity model, which asseses the current infrastructure of the customers, including corporate aspects, and then rates the customer on which area he needs to focus on first - operational, hardware, software and so on," says Qaadan.

As Rao notes, the speed of technological change has made keeping up with the latest buzzwords difficult. Firms like Hitachi and Symantec attempt to fill the gap by running in-house training programs, bringing in external specialists to advise customers on the latest trends and how to amend their businesses to best effect.

"It's down to competent vendors, whoever they are, to ensure that we educate before we try to sell," says Kevin Bailey, head of Veritas product marketing at Symantec. He disagrees with the notion, though, that partners are above education themselves.

"I would actually say that partners of Symantec are permanently being educated. I'm sorry, but anyone who says they don't need to be educated is ignorant. And having said that, I think the Middle East is maturing - there are some serious customers who know exactly what they want," he continues.

Other providers still advise however, that storage customers should be aware of what they require, to avoid being sold a product which fits the reseller's marketing brief rather than the customer's needs.

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