Systems Builder Wins An IP Storage Project
This company won a $13,000 storage sale by combining its custom IP (Internet Protocol)-basedÂ storage products with its integration expertise.
One of the tenets of Business Solutions magazine is to feature stories designed to help integrators delve into emerging technologies such as IP-based storage and iSCSI (Internet small computer system interface)-based storage. Here's an example of a storage systems builder and network integrator that is building a successful business by selling IP-based storage solutions to displace traditional DAS (direct-attached storage) products.
Variel Technology produces standards-based, external IP storage solutions for business-critical applications. IP storage solutions are based on iSCSI, a storage protocol that leverages the two most well-understood, mature, and standard technologies that have existed for more than 20 years: SCSI and Ethernet. Recently, Variel won a storage project for a business management firm that specializes in the entertainment industry. Variel was recommended to this client through a reference from an existing customer — JP Morgan Chase.
The customer's legacy DAS system was located inside several of the company's application servers. The DAS storage was no longer expandable or efficient, and it was expensive to maintain. Variel worked with the client to define its needs, develop a project proposal, and develop a business case for approval from the firm. The customer had specific financial industry regulatory requirements to comply with. The final project proposal consisted of network and storage infrastructure products with specific performance benchmarks and scalability requirements.
Stay The Course When Selling IP Storage
"The entire sales process took approximately four months, as it involved several layers of decision-making processes that included external influences related to compliance requirements," explains Ali Asvadi, president of Variel. "Other network integrators were still recommending DAS-based solutions. That approach ultimately proved to be an unsuccessful strategy, since DAS could not provide the scalability the customer required. We listened and understood the client's needs. We got involved in their application, security, and compliance processes. Our consultative role proved our willingness to take ownership of the client's IT-related problems."
Asvadi took the time to educate the client about the benefits of the iSCSI IP storage protocol and how this future-proof technology was going to help the customer stay competitive — a critical step when selling emerging technologies. This is a process many integrators avoid, mainly because of the amount of time required for this level of participation — sometimes two to three months.
For the IP storage part of the project, Variel recommended its VXI300M model that is based on the iStor GSATX-416 system board along with a 3U enclosure with dual power supplies. The VXI300M offers support for up to 16 SAS (serial-attached SCSI)/SATA (serial ATA) hard disk drives, RAID (redundant array of independent disks), virtualization, and four Gigabit iSCSI ports. The initial starting capacity was 3 TB. The cost of the system was approximately $13,000. The entire solution consists of the Variel IP SAN (storage area network) and HP file servers running Microsoft, Computer Associates, and the specific business application.
To generate additional revenue, Variel assisted the client with integration of the Microsoft Exchange e-mail and the vertical applications, servers, security, and IP SAN provisioning — providing the services as a complete turnkey project. The installation took two weeks and included two days of customer training.
"Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the installation was making sure all aspects of the client's IT and business requirements were included in the final deliverables, while providing minimal impact on its operations," says Asvadi. "We also had to deal with external influences such as compliance requirements." The results of the network project are increased cost savings and productivity for the customer.
The success of the installation has led to more work for Variel with other business management firms. Variel provides the customer with ongoing firmware updates to maintain the health and integrity of the iSCSI appliance. In addition, Variel has sold the customer more storage capacity for the IP SAN since the initial installation. This client plans to merge with another firm — a move that will bring additional sales opportunities for Variel.