Buying Storage: Tread Carefully

Figuring out the actual cost of storage products such as hyperconvergence appliances can be tricky.

Howard Marks

January 20, 2016

3 Min Read
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While we as technologists like to think that product purchase decisions should be independent of mere commerce, the truth is that cost is always a significant consideration. If it wasn't, disk would really be as dead as some other analysts believe. Unfortunately, in a market where list and street prices are only distantly related, even figuring out if you can afford an all-flash array may have some unforeseen complications.

One example of this distant relationship can be seen in the varying list prices of hyperconverged appliances using different server platforms. For example, Atlantis Computing’s new HyperScale CX-4  is a two-node, all-flash configuration for remote offices. Even though all five versions offered by Atlantis hardware partners have the same processors and memory configurations, their list prices range from $43,000 to more than $115,000.

SuperMicro targets users who value price transparency and just don’t want to spend time with salespeople. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Dell and Lenovo set their list prices in the $57,000 to $60,000 range to give their resellers and sales teams some room to discount while Cisco aims to please the corporate purchasing group with bigger discounts.  In the end, all of their hyperconverged appliances will end up with a similar street price, but unless you really understand the vendors and their target markets, it’s hard to see that the Cisco solution isn’t really more than twice as expensive as the SuperMicro product.

As a storage buyer, you can also get yourself in trouble with vendor deal registration programs.  Deal registration is designed to protect real VARs from the IT version of showrooming: The reprehensible practice of comparing products at the high-end audio store and then ordering online where they’re $20 cheaper because the online reseller doesn’t have to pay rent and equip a $100,000 showroom.


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When a good reseller spends hours with a customer helping them determine their needs and then select a solution, they register the customer with the vendor or vendors they’ve suggested. In return, the vendor gives the VAR an additional discount to protect him or her from being underbid by resellers that didn’t incur the cost of the consultative sale.

Encouraging VARs to actually add value is a good thing, but deal registration can cause you as a buyer problems. When you’re frantically working on your budget and click the “Quote Now” button on an online reseller’s website for a price comparison, that reseller gets to register you as a customer for that product even if you intended to buy from your usual reseller.

With most products, that means you’ll have to pay as much as 10% more to buy from "UltraSystemGroup" because "Akbar and Jeff’s Computer Hut" registered the deal. With other more tightly controlled products, you may have to convince the vendor that you REALLY want to buy from your VAR of choice because their registration system locks other VARs out of registered deals.

I know a few organizations that  have created at least additional email domains to use for quick quotes to prevent registering what are more dreams than really deals.

Disclosure: Atlantis Computing is a client and HPE is a past client of DeepStorage.

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at:

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