Prospect For Enterprise Storage Sales
A simple prospecting call turned into an enterprise-class SAN (storage area network) installation for $700 million integrator Forsythe Solutions Group, Inc.
Solutions provider Forsythe Solutions Group, Inc. (Skokie, IL) believes exceptional customer service is the key to running a successful VAR business. Financial services and healthcare are two of the primary markets for Forsythe. Eva Losacco, president and CEO of Forsythe, believes those customers need a VAR they can trust to help them make the right IT spending decisions.
Forsythe account managers make prospecting calls to generate new business. Last year, an account manager had been trying to schedule a meeting with a $2 billion insurance and financial services company. It took three months before he was finally able to schedule the visit. During the meeting he became aware of a storage project the company was about to evaluate. The company had a midsized storage system in place, but its data needs continued to grow and the company was concerned about how it would continue to manage this growth.
Evaluate The Need And Recommend A Solution
Upon identifying this storage opportunity, Forsythe conducted a storage evaluation. Forsythe's approach is to send a sales team consisting of technical consultants and an account manager. The team sits down with the prospect's IT team to identify gaps between its business strategy and current infrastructure. This evaluation helped the end user determine what needed to be done to accomplish its goals.
"We were able to figure out how to best solve the customer's business challenge and optimize their infrastructure to support their business strategy," says Losacco. "That is the value we bring. The customer was already looking into solutions from EMC, IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, and Compaq. We have the ability to evaluate all of the different hardware platforms and solutions on their behalf, manage the evaluation process, help them select the solution that is best for them, and assist them in the procurement and implementation process."
The storage evaluation showed the customer had imminent storage needs, but would be facing an explosion of storage requirements a few years out as well. A concerted effort was required to ensure the storage they purchased would continue to meet their needs in the future. "The discovery process helps us understand the customer's requirements for the new infrastructure," says Losacco. "Once we perform our analysis of the available solutions, we will speak with the customer about the capabilities of each of the different vendor storage solutions. We also work with each of the manufacturers to provide the best pricing to the customer, including vendor training and services."
An Enterprise Storage Array Fit The Bill
The solution that best fit the customer's environment and needs was a large-scale enterprise storage solution involving hardware and software from EMC (Hopkinton, MA). This end user was an existing EMC customer and opted to go with a new enterprise-class EMC Symmetrix. The customer's existing (midsized) EMC storage array was moved to a different data center location, which now serves as a data recovery center that would be used in the event of a disaster.
In addition to the actual storage infrastructure, the customer purchased connectivity components for both their servers and their storage area network, as well as optional software packages. Forsythe provided implementation and project management services for the entire project. The implementation services included moving the customer's existing infrastructure to the new data recovery site. "A strong service offering helps us complete the package," says Losacco.
The complete installation took about four months, with the entire schedule built around the customer's production schedule as well as the availability of key personnel to attend vendor-sponsored training. Part of the package involves company personnel flying to the vendor site for training. This training gives the customer an intimate knowledge of the EMC product. Forsythe provides additional training during the installation to ensure customers understand how the product will fit into their unique environment.
Transfer Storage Knowledge
The actual implementation was a joint effort between Forsythe and EMC. "There are some components of the install that every vendor requires they do themselves," says Losacco. "But we definitely oversee the whole installation. We manage the entire process to make sure all deadlines are met. We handled the majority of the implementation and integration work, but in doing so worked closely with the customer's IT staff." By working alongside the client's staff in performing the installation, Forsythe ensures there will be a complete transfer of knowledge from its engineers to the customer.
"We ensure the customer's system administrators and operations staff understand the technology and are able to handle the ongoing administration," says Losacco. "It also means they do not have to keep calling us back on a billable basis." While service calls result in additional revenue for Forsythe, Losacco notes the company prefers to be project-focused. "When we get done with an implementation, customers are able to manage and administer the solution themselves," she says.
The installation has been a success for the customer. As with any enterprise deployment, there were complexities involved with deploying the new hardware and software into the customer's legacy environment. The customer had over 2 TB of data stored on a legacy Novell NetWare server. This provided a challenge in migrating the data to the new infrastructure. Several Novell developers and external data migration software developers were engaged by Forsythe to enable the migration to be successfully completed. "The customer is very pleased with the results and continues to embark on new projects with us, both relating to this infrastructure as well as other projects going on in their data center," says Losacco. "The new solution has reduced their maintenance costs, and they now expect to have a much lower total cost of ownership. They also have a stable storage infrastructure that will scale at the pace of their business. They have central administration for all of their storage functions and will continue to develop their business continuity project as well."