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SNS UK Data storage and IT management: Ethernet storage, networking storage solution, IP storage network, fibre channel, iSCSI, FCoE
SNS: In today’s competitive storage networking landscape, how would you position S3 right now ?
SR: I believe we remain one of the only true independent resellers in the industry who focus on emerging and new technologies that can complement and enhance existing storage infrastructures and systems. We are always conscious that our customers do not want to be forced into a wholesale ‘rip and replace’ of their entire environments and so seek to find the right product(s) to fit.
SNS: More specifically, how do you see S3’s strategy fitting in a crowded landscape of the telco/networking providers, the managed service providers, the storage vendors and the Channel?
SR: You’re right that the landscape is crowded with all of the above and without doubt the true strength of S3 is not simply being a provider but being a trusted advisor who is truly independent. Every manufacturer will tell you they have the prettiest baby!
What customers need is somebody who can provide impartial, independent advice on networking, managed services and mainline storage products but who can also bring step function improvements through emerging technologies early in their lifecycle. In summary there will always be a space for companies like S3 who promote innovation supported by strong customer service.
SNS: And what advantages does S3 bring to the storage networking market, bearing in mind the company’s background to date?
SR: We have an objective view to business problems based on over 20 years of knowledge and experience of aligning products and services to the customer’s specific business needs. Our aim is to create long term strategic partnerships for our vendors and customers alike to ensure longevity of the solutions we recommend.
True our focus is on storage, however, the pace of business today in a highly competitive global marketplace has meant our customers need real-time agility, lower costs and simplified infrastructures. This has forced us to consider end to end solutions that can help provide them with reliability, guaranteed data integrity and non-block performance.
SNS: Are there any ‘missing’ areas that the company plans to address to increase its presence in the storage networking market, moving forward?
SR: Convergence is an area we believe is under subscribed. Cisco Nexus seems to have it sown up at present but there is certainly room for alternatives. Take Xsigo for example – offering a great technical solution (VMworld labs would not be possible without it) but with better green credentials and a more flexible approach. I/O virtualisation could well be the next big thing.
SNS: With “the next big thing” in mind can you give an update on any new vendor lines / technologies you are promoting?
SR: We’ve seen the launch of Commvault Simpana 9 and 2011 will see the take up of OnTap 8 from NetApp. In addition, we are actively pursuing the following products - Exagrid, Xsigo, Force10, Avere, HDS VSP, Compellent, VMware VSphere and VirtualSharp.
SNS: With all of those new offerings in mind can you provide brief details of any recent wins or successes for the business?
SR: Whilst we have had a string of wins and customer successes over the past 12 months, one of the highlights has been S3 attaining European Partner of the Year for Isilon and becoming the UK’s only Platinum partner. This is credit to our expertise in delivering scale out NAS solutions to a number of high profile customers with extremely complex environments.
SNS: Complex environments usually involve customer pain points around certain key disciplines. How does S3 seek to address key topics, such as: Virtualisation, The Cloud, Convergence, Data Management, Tiering/ Lifecycle Management, Energy Efficiency, as well as the ongoing backup/recovery focus?
SR: Virtualisation – we’re sticking with VMware at present but we keep evaluating alternatives. It’s interesting to note that virtualisation to date has concentrated on Tier2 applications being transferred from physical to virtual environments as customers have been wary of upsetting critical applications. We are now beginning to see customers considering moving critical applications to a virtual environment and this is providing us with opportunity to help customers with ensuring protection and a level of security around this transition including appropriate and necessary back-up and disaster recovery solutions.
The Cloud – seems to be a word I’m hearing everywhere these days! Cloud computing seems to be here to stay. As companies look to save money virtualised and outsourced IT infrastructures allow them to do this. Datacentres around the world are starting to fill with technologies that will allow us to abandon our traditional models for providing IT, moving it away from the customer and into the hands of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, to name but a few. We’ve looked at providing services and technologies that can assist with the cloud – and whilst cloud storage is cheap, bandwidth can be expensive. Customers don’t realise that whilst they can buy a gigabyte of storage for as little as 15 pence, a 1Gb connection can cost tens of thousands of pounds per annum!
Convergence – sounds great and maximising the utilisation of an asset is obvious but virtually every case is different.
We prefer to look at the business drivers and workflows behind the pain point as its only when you understand the big picture that real recommendations and decisions can be made. I think the other point here is that 10 years ago when you mentioned convergence everyone talked about voice and data traffic (VOIP). Nowadays convergence is bringing together protocols such as iSCSI, FC and Ethernet – FCOE is the next VOIP?
Data Management – is a key competency of S3, we’ve been doing it for so long its now second nature. You soon realise that you can’t simply apply standard methods or protocols to 80% of your customers – each case is different. We have developed a selection of services to help enable our customers to understand their environments, and to identify where the problems are or could be avoided – without understanding the issues you can’t begin to find the solutions
Tiering and ILM just makes sense. These concepts have been around for a long time but executing them is a different matter. You have to consider what sort of solutions meet your requirements? Commvault have an integrated strategy to archiving and Data Management and they are gaining credibility and market penetration over the traditional players. Compellent offer a storage system with built-in ILM at the block level – no other manufacturer offers this yet. There is no guarantee that any of these or other intelligent ILM technologies will help reduce total primary storage volumes, their energy consumption or CO2 they produce, however it is clear that focus on the latter is only ever likely to increase.
Energy Efficiency – Nexsan MAID, VMware, Xsigo and Compellent give a compelling solution (pardon the pun!) for the energy conscious business.
As with most technology I think we will see it adopted by the bigger firms first with smaller enterprises waiting until economies of scale have brought down the cost. For SME’s the current return on investment in terms of energy and time saving is not yet enough to warrant the initial investment. However as SME’s upgrade their environments over the next three to five years these features should be within reach.
Back-up/Recovery – Veeam, Commvault Simpana 9 and NetBackUp 7 give us an excellent base for providing back-up and recovery.
SNS: What are your thoughts around the debate as to whether back up is dead and long live archive?
SR: Controversial I know!! In an “always on” business culture where data is becoming more and more critical irrelevant of age should we be moving towards active archiving solutions and reducing our reliance on back up?
SNS: Previously SNS has reported on S3 customer success stories in the Life Sciences market – is this a particularly strong area for you and, if so, why?
SR: Yes. Over the past few years we have accumulated a vast knowledge of the core attributes, infrastructures and specific demand requirements of the research community and have combined this with our detailed understanding of the established and emerging technologies in the market place that are best suited to meet their needs. I think these users have also been forced to consider new, innovative approaches to data growth and this plays to S3’s strength.
SNS: You’ve also carried out work for Infoterra, a digital mapping company – is this another industry niche that you’ve targeted?
SR: We’ve not specifically targeted the industry – we’ve targeted specific problems and this has dictated the type of customers we have been successful with. Doing more with less - a business imperative – has been a target line for us for some time.
Organisations that have large volumes of data that need to share it amongst multiple sites or departments fit the same brief. Growth in unstructured data and massive file repositories has become an area of expertise for S3 including providing scalable NAS solutions.
SNS: I appreciate that you are not targetting particular vertical markets but what other specific industry-sectors do you serve?
SR: Currently we are focussing on end-to-end low latency infrastructures that can accelerate the analysis of incoming data and help reduce bottlenecks across datacentres from server to network to storage. Low latency is a hot topic within the financial markets, where the proliferation of algorithmic trading requires businesses to react to market events faster than their competition to increase profitability of trades. A large global investment bank has recently stated that every millisecond lost in latency results in ~$100million per annum in lost opportunity. Milliseconds and now microseconds are a competitive edge.
SNS: In terms of technologies, as outlined before, and any others, what are the key solutions on which S3 focuses?
SR: When it comes to storage, the holy grail is to be able to offer lots for little, or as I heard yesterday ‘a blue chip solution for a potato chip price’. Even with the best intentions you can’t avoid the fact that good, reliable and feature rich storage has a premium attached to it.
Storage efficiency is just one way to justify that premium. With the upgrade to a new system you instantly see efficiencies – hardware today is more efficient than that of three years ago. If you couple with that the features often seen as standard in enterprise storage platforms, such as, snapshots, MAID, deduplication, thin provisioning – you can make substantial savings in power, cooling and the number of physical disks required. In a financial climate where all spend must be justified and a global climate which is urging us to use less power, storage efficiency still has an important part to play as a key solution for our customers.
SNS: And around which technology areas do you see great potential for developing new solutions in the months ahead?
SR: Our IP networking business is growing mainly due to our traditional storage customers needing a trusted IP partner. Consequently IP and converged networking are big developing markets for us right now.
Similarly, Tier2 and ILM based storage systems have been excellent areas of growth over the past two to three years and ones which we are keen to cultivate yet further.
SNS: Outside of the topics covered before, are there other key technologies that end users should be focusing on right now – deduplication?
SR: Deduplication has been done to death and is now very much a mainstream product – that’s not to say that there isn’t new emerging technologies still to consider, such as, Exagrid, or that you shouldn’t pick a well trusted partner to help you chose the right method or product to implement. I/O virtualisation and cloud acceleration are interesting at the moment.
SNS: Finally, how do you see S3 and the Channel in general evolving to thrive and prosper in a competitive market where vendors are not always as supportive as they could be?!
SR: Survival of the fittest, only the most skilled with the highest level of self-sufficiency, will continue to prosper in an ever more competitive marketplace. S3 have always been self-sufficient and we will continue to stay that way.ShareThis
Tags: Ethernet Storage
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