Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Four Questions to Ask Prospective Storage Vendors

Every cloud and managed hosting service provider should ask these four unconventional questions of prospective storage vendors.

Industry Perspectives

August 12, 2015

4 Min Read
Four Questions to Ask Prospective Storage Vendors

Darnell Fatigati is Senior Segment and Product Marketing Manager for SolidFire Inc.

Every service provider’s business goals evolve over time. They may shift focus on particular business outcomes, like providing a better application experience for their customers or offering new performance-based services. Or perhaps their goal is to attract new customers and improve customer satisfaction, while keeping costs at a minimum and maximizing revenue.

However, when the time comes for service providers to re-evaluate their existing storage vendor or to find a new one, it’s the technical functionality, not the business objectives, that often steals the spotlight. Performance, Quality of Service (QoS), data protection and other technical specifications are a critical part of an RFI, but few service providers probe vendors to address specific business outcomes - something that’s just as, if not more, critical. Because storage is at the core of any cloud infrastructure, service providers have the right to know and choose the best platform that both meets their functionality needs and intended business outcomes. To achieve this, every service provider should ask prospective vendors these four insightful questions:

How Can the Vendor Help a Service Provider Monetize Storage?

If a provider’s main business goal is to maximize the revenue from its data center space while keeping costs to a minimum, each vendor has to be evaluated in terms of its contribution to that end goal. A storage vendor’s features and functionalities can help create new revenue streams from new services that are valued by customers. For example, if a customer’s applications need predictable performance, it’s critical to choose a storage product that allows the provider to manage performance instantly. By being able to guarantee performance to customers, they can to tap into new markets that were previously off-limits because of performance unpredictability - like mission-critical business applications, analytics, VDI, high-performance computing, e-commerce and performance databases.

How Can the Vendor Help Streamline Operations?

Enhanced efficiencies are critical aspects of a service provider’s success. Value-accretive services sold to business customers must be based on repeatable operations tasks that can be automated, orchestrated and integrated whenever possible - while considering businesses’ individual needs. When evaluating storage vendors, providers must assess their ability to help them deliver standard and repeatable services. They must assess their automation and orchestration capabilities, their ability to help meet individual application needs, scale performance and capacity non-disruptively; and finally, ease operational pains, like performance troubleshooting.

How Will the Vendor Reduce Technology and Business Risk?

When purchasing storage, there are two main areas of risk: financial and technological. To mitigate financial risk, service providers should ask the vendor about its capacity management and scale model. For example, purchasing too much capacity up front can threaten a provider’s profitability. To avoid financial risk, it is critical that the vendor allows for scaling capacity up and down as needed. To reduce technological risk, service providers should consider if the vendor forces migrations and redevelopment of automation, orchestration and integration when moving from one version to another. Furthermore, it’s essential to assess the vendor’s ability to truly prepare a provider’s business for the next generation data center and offer innovative storage features, like QoS, automated self healing, multiple replication methods and secure multi-tenancy.

How Will the Vendor Help a Provider Win More Customers and More Service Revenue from Existing Customers?

To help providers win more customers with their technology, storage vendors must understand the wider market trends and opportunities and use that knowledge to help providers shape their storage offerings and go-to-market approach. For example, the right vendor should understand how to successfully sell storage services to both enterprises and SMBs, help the provider assess the competitive landscape, and develop GTM strategies, including how they should price, produce and launch storage services.

When evaluating storage vendors, service providers often ask typical technical questions that prospective vendors respond with cut-and-paste answers. But it’s the unconventional yet meaningful questions that uncover a vendor’s true ability to help the provider meet unique business needs. Only a vendor that intimately understands a provider’s business, its customers, the market in which it operates and its supply chain, allows the provider to put its business outcomes back in the spotlight.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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