Virtual Trade Show: ROI Key To Storage Strength


The vendors were part of a panel moderated by Robert DeMarzo, senior vice president and editorial director at Everything Channel, as part of an Everything Channel virtual trade show. is a part of Everything Channel.

Customers are looking to take advantage of existing storage capacity instead of adding new capacity, and as a result are scrutinizing every deal very carefully, said Brian Ignomirello, CTO for storage in the Americas at Hewlett-Packard.

"Customers are all talking about ROI," Ignomirello said. "ROI is coming back again."

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Finding ways to help customers reduce the costs of their IT infrastructures is one of the most important things a vendor or a solution provider can do, said Susan Blocher, vice president of storage at IBM.

"That's the mantra for 2009," Blocher said. "But we also need to talk about adding value for customers."

Solution providers need to be able to talk to customers about the efficiency of their storage infrastructures, Blocher said. And, with longer sales cycles and more people needing to sign off on deals, they had better be prepared to both talk about the issues and to wait for some time before getting the go-ahead on a project, she said.

"It's critical for solution providers to go in with the data, information and tools that enable them to talk about measurable ROI and value," she said.

One way to increase ROI is to help customers find ways to more efficiently purchase products, such as Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS, said Eric Pitcher, vice president of technology strategy at CA.

CA also has been rolling out tools to help solution providers measure their own business to look for efficiencies, Pitcher said.

Solution providers have access to a wide range of tools to help increase the efficiency of customers' storage infrastructures, ranging from basic technology like the ability to power down storage devices to advanced features like data deduplication, said Pete Koliopoulos, vice president of global channel marketing at EMC.

Companies like EMC can provide tools to partners to help them do assessments of new technology and to show their benefits, Koliopoulos said. Reference customers are just as important, he said.

In addition to tools to help measure ROI, EMC also has been moving sales resources from its direct side to its channel side, and adding technical support staff to help solution providers with customer issues, Koliopoulos said.

IBM is addressing issues like ROI and the importance of adding value and not just selling products by moving its solution providers to offer product bundles that include hardware and software, and not just sell piece parts, Blocher said. "We're simplifying the purchase of these solutions," she said.

As a result of President Obama's stimulus plan, the public sector, especially the federal government, is becoming a major customer for storage professionals, panel members said.

This corresponds with recent Everything Channel research, which found that an extremely large percentage of solution providers who are seeing excessive growth also do business with the federal government, DeMarzo said.

Pitcher said that CA's larger solution provider partners have been seeing a slowdown in business in general, but that they are expecting big growth in the public sector.

Many of CA's partners are actually expanding their sales teams in order to meet new business requirements from the federal government, Pitcher said.

That shift also has caught EMC's notice, Koliopoulos said. And, over time, he said this will trickle down to state and local government spending. EMC also is seeing smaller solution providers now starting to get into the federal government business, and larger partners working more with smaller partners to grow this business. "We're seeing the building of partner networks," he said.

Other vertical markets also offer storage opportunities even in a down economy, panel members said.

IBM is helping its solution provider partners focus on certain verticals where such opportunities exist, Blocher said.

As an example, she cited the growing need for storage combined with security in the health-care vertical, where an MRI today results in images requiring about 1,000 times the storage needed just a few years ago. Blocher also pointed to an organization like the NFL, which struggles to handle the growing capacity requirements that come from covering a play from so many angles and having to store all that video.

Ignomirello also cited compliance as a growing concern that could mean new opportunities for storage solution providers.

Compliance is forcing customers to spend more on IT, including storage, Ignomirello said. But they are spending on technologies such as deduplication, virtualization and thin provisioning that help them get by with their existing infrastructures, he said.