When you only have two colors, all your pictures are black and white
by Craig Jeske, on May 1, 2013 2:50:24 PM
I had a meeting several weeks ago with a large customer who is moving towards a centralized virtual data center concept. They currently have well over 100 data centers and are looking to consolidate down to under 25 data centers. Given the global distribution of their users’ requirements this is actually a pretty major accomplishment and I applaud them for the project. My concern for the customer and their budget isn’t in their end goal. My concern lies in who they are taking their advice from. As my bio describes I’m the “cloud guy” and I have been living in that space for quite some time. I feel like I have a fairly good understand of what the “cloud” is going to require, what business drivers take us to the cloud, and more importantly to this discussion what the under-pinning’s of a cloud architecture should be.
To start this discussion let me roll back for a moment, I’ve been with a Solutions Integrator (SI) / Value Added Reseller (VAR) for five years now, and prior to that I was a large government system integrator working on a very specific government program encompassing numerous technology areas. I have been regularly approached by major vendors to discuss other career opportunities with their organizations. One major reason I have stayed in the VAR space is options. When I begin working with a customer to design a solution I have a full palate of colors to choose from in painting the picture for a solution. I don’t have to be tied to any one vendor, product, or offering to build a solution. This allows me to build the best solution regardless of what products end up in the final design. This flexibility is very important to me in working with my customers to get them the right solution for their needs.
Fast forward back to the customer I mentioned, they are consolidating their 100+ data centers down to under 25 data centers. A great project, a fun solution to work on, and a noble cause to be sure. There are also about a hundred different ways you could build this solution. My only concern for this customer is who their “trusted advisor” is. This particular customer has relied for a long time on a major OEM (original equipment manufacturer) for “free” architectural support and advisory services. An OEM, even this particular one who offers a very wide range of products, is inherently tied to their hardware or software. If OEM X makes servers, storage, end points, and offers in house services does anyone think they would ever consider recommending OEM Y’s storage to go with their servers? Of course not, they only have a small palate of colors to choose from when they paint. All of their pictures seem to end up in black and white. And sure enough, walking through this customer’s data center I see OEM X’s equipment filling up rack after rack. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if OEM X offered the best options for every solution out there.
Herein lies the problem in my opinion. No vendor, regardless of how large or small, offers the best product for every solution out there. Some vendors are great at certain things and other vendors are a perfect fit for other things. The problem is that when you are leaning on a vendor to be your trusted advisor they aren’t able to provide the best of breed offering for a range of solutions, or simply advise objectively on competing software or platforms. They can only provide their best product for your business requirements. This is where a true trusted advisor from a VAR or SI comes into play. A true trusted advisor should be able to offer their customer the best of breed solution to solve a business problem, and have more than one OEM vendor to discuss. At GTRI we support multiple OEM vendors, all of whom offer incredible products and solutions for various client environments, and my (our) role is to ensure you the client receive a picture that is not just black and white.