Getting Started In SAN Solutions

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James Rupprecht, sales manager at Valcom Networks, Salt Lake City, on getting started:

PICK YOUR VENDORS: We started out by finding some best-of-breed products. And we didn't get just one product. We went with different products to meet customer needs. We started with EqualLogic, the best iSCSI array out there. But it's more for the midtier. It's too expensive for small customers. Then we brought in [Network Appliance's] StoreVault for smaller customers. Often, storage needs to fit the budget. If the customer has a $10,000 storage budget, they are ready for a SAN. But sometimes a customer has a $10,000 to $15,000 budget but they really need a $30,000 EqualLogic.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK: We don't just sell. We talk to the customer, do discovery on their storage. I try to find out as much as I can about their network infrastructure, what servers they have, what operating system they are running, what kind of data they have. With that information, I can get an idea of what they need in terms of performance. This allows us to sell the right solution for their environment. They don't end up a disappointed customer. And this helps the customer know we are knowledgeable and that we can be their trusted adviser.

KNOW THE COMPETITION: I find out all I can about the competition. I don't bash them. But I point out to customers, here's what ours does and what others do. The competition includes LeftHand Networks, EMC's AX150 and HP's MSA.

GET TRAINED: Our first certification was for the HP EVA. It cost us $4,000 to $5,000 by the time we paid for travel and salary. But for the iSCSI SAN, there wasn't much cost. We got good support from our partners EqualLogic and NetApp. They went out with us and helped us sell the products and gave us training. They would come into town, spend a day or two, including one-on-one training with us.

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CONSIDER A DEMO LAB: We haven't bought any special equipment. We did buy an EqualLogic SAN for demo. A goal this year is to buy a demo StoreVault. We also have equipment for a demo lab, but it's not set up yet. The demo lab will be important for our small-business customers. A big push for us this year is VMware. We need to show customers the functionality. And it's easier to show with a lab than with our production equipment. We will also put demo arrays in the lab.

—Interview by Joseph F. Kovar