Shoulder Your Customers' Risks In Emerging Server/Storage Technology
VAR Total Tec Systems used its lab to integrate a server system based on new processor technology with a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) solution to meet the needs of a $1.4 million installation.
When a customer wants to take a risk with a new, untested technology, you're also taking a risk. If the technology doesn't work correctly, the cost skyrockets, or it simply falls apart before it's completed, you are the one in the hot seat. But you don't want to turn down sales because of a fear of risk, do you? No, especially when the sale has the potential to be more than a million dollars. VAR Total Tec Systems (Edison, NJ), a wholly owned subsidiary of $2 billion Bell Microproducts (San Jose, CA), has a unique way of shifting the risk of purchasing new technologies away from its customers. It has a laboratory to test, troubleshoot, and integrate its solutions for the customer. In this instance, it integrated emerging server technology with a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) solution per its customer's request. That risk paid off with a $1.4 million installation.
Total Tec's lab approach is an effective strategy for the VAR. Its representatives sit with customers and determine their needs, then build the infrastructure, integrate it, test it, and load and configure the storage. "We can walk in with a turnkey system, get it up and running in a few hours, and our customers can be more productive sooner," says Paul Collins, VP of technology and CTO for Total Tec. "It isn't a situation where boxes show up at a customer's site, and two to three weeks are spent disrupting the work environment."
Market Yourself To Your Storage, Server Supplier
Total Tec classifies itself as an enterprise solution provider that focuses on the server and storage components, of which Total Tec is a single-vendor reseller for HP (Palo Alto, CA). To reinforce and benefit from that relationship, representatives from the VAR regularly visit HP's call centers throughout the country and market Total Tec. "Our representatives will say, 'Hey, here's what we do well, and by the way, if you send the lead to us, you don't have to worry about us bringing in a different vendor,'" says Collins. He says Total Tec has received a number of leads from this system, although the VAR doesn't have a way to measure those leads.
Total Tec's recent $1.4 million installation is proof that those call center visits work, though. Its customer is a direct database marketing company - the company only calls people from specific databases it is given by its customers. In the past, the company's customers, and those customers' databases, were small, and the marketing company was able to use Windows and SQL servers to support the databases. When the marketing company signed a new, much larger customer, it realized the associated database was of such magnitude that the company's existing storage and server system couldn't support it. The marketing company approached the vendor of some of its hardware, HP, which in turn called on Total Tec.
Take On The Risk Of Emerging Server Solutions
In presale conversations with Total Tec, the marketing company expressed its desire to use AMD's (Sunnyvale, CA) emerging Opteron-based processor technology in the solution. The marketing company thought the processing capabilities of such a solution could handle its new database without being too costprohibitive. Total Tec knew that HP didn't have such technology on the market yet, but was close to finalizing a product. Further, Total Tec was experiencing heavy pressure from a competing vendor that already offered Opteron technology in a server solution. Total Tec told its customer that it could build the solution using HP's product, but there would be a risk involved because the technology was untested. "The customer realized that our business model of staging and testing the products and integration in our own lab before sending it out took out a lot of the risk for them," says Collins. "They didn't have to tie up their own manpower to do that." Total Tec worked to develop a solution that combined the Opteron-based HP ProLiant DL585 server (with Red Hat Linux and Oracle 9 i-RAC) with HP's StorageWorks XP1024 Disk Array.
While building and testing the system, Total Tec experienced some irregular situations. In some cases, its team was working with predictions of how the product would work and configured the integration based on those. Sometimes, those predictions were incorrect, and Total Tec had to step back with the integration. Also, there were a few false starts integrating the Oracle 9 i-RAC, Collins says. "You can't just run a standard installation and expect the i-RAC to be up and running." That's why Collins says the lab environment is so beneficial. "There are always problems with integration, and they're usually minor," he says. "But if you're solving those problems under the customer's nose, the customer could be losing confidence in your capabilities and configuration."