Consolidation drives storage but channel still weak

Consolidation drives storage but channel still weak

Australia hasn't seen as much IT spend from the September 11 wake-up call as we might have expected or liked, according to IDC analyst Graham Penn.

Speaking at a round table earlier this week, a preliminary briefing to the IDC StorageVision 2002 conference which kicks off in Melbourne on September 17, Penn said many companies have sought quotations on improvements to the durability of their infrastructure, but few have actually purchased anything. "By doing nothing, organisations are effectively self-insuring," he said.

Taking precedence over disaster recovery procedures and backup is the consolidation of storage assets, according to Harry Christian, Network Appliance's marketing manager, Australia/NZ. He cited examples of customers reducing server counts from 300 to 12 by "letting the servers actually run applications" rather than perform storage functions.

Rick Sewell, Hewlett-Packard's Asia-Pacific marketing manager, network storage solutions, said fundamental problems in customers' storage environments have resulted from them letting the environments build up ad hoc. Large institutions buy new servers when more storage is required, while SMBs have collected a myriad of direct-attached storage islands, few of which are operating to full capacity.

The demand for system "health checks" as Sewell calls it, will see storage consulting flourishing over the coming months. Network Appliance claims specialist storage integrators such as SecureData are billing for pre-consultative services and building a successful business out of it.

John Anderson, Sun Microsystems' national product manager for storage, said the level of storage consulting work is overwhelming Sun's professional services group and the vendor is investing a lot of time and money into bringing its partners up to speed so they can meet the demand for services.

All the vendors at the round table, however -- Network Appliance, HP, Sun, Legato, Sony and Quantum -- felt that Australia was short on competent storage specialists. There are plenty of integrators out there who excel in network-based solutions, but to some degree storage is still a specialised service.

"When Network Appliance went out to enhance its storage channel, we found to our surprise that there were an insufficient number of competent resellers in this area," said Christian. "And that's just storage generically, not NAS and SAN-specific solutions."

Meanwhile, the management aspect, managing multiple applications across many sites and even using software to assist in identifying storage assets within an organisation, will boost software sales. Sewell said the desire to automate is huge as IT departments are asked to do more with less.

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