The key pitfalls of SDS to avoid so you can grow your sales

There are a number of pitfalls surrounding software-defined storage (SDS), whether that’s existing myths or the need to understand your customer’s expectations properly. Here’s what you need to avoid.

Your customers are feeling the burden of the digital era, knowing that they need to have agile access to highly distributed data, high performance, and high availability. Unfortunately, much of their data is already residing in legacy storage arrays.

The pooled storage infrastructure resources in a software-defined storage (SDS) environment can be automatically and efficiently allocated to match the application needs of an enterprise. This gives your customers increased freedom and flexibility to grow their business and better control over their data.

Your customers will already be aware of SDS and may feel that they’re ready to virtualise their storage environment right away. However, there are a number of pitfalls that could impact their decisions during the sales cycle and even more so during implementation.

No standard definition for SDS

There’s still no standardised definition for SDS and vendors may package it in different ways. When approaching your customers about this solution, you need to scope out what their requirements are, what their expectations are and what they’re looking to achieve.

Without defining what the customer wants at this early stage, they can easily misunderstand what an SDS solution can do for them - leading to miscommunication and potential disappointment. Deliver the cold hard facts to your customers about how they will benefit from such a solution.

Crucial talking points include:

  • Elimination of storage vendor lock-in, giving your customers greater flexibility and freedom around their purchases.
  • Reduction of costly overheads traditionally associated with infrastructure.
  • Improved security through better control of data and disaster recovery features.

41% of the storage market audience isn’t too familiar with SDS. This gives partners like you a huge opportunity to maximise sales potential by virtualising your customer’s environments.

Not understanding the role hardware plays in SDS

Although SDS gives your customers freedom to purchase components from whichever vendors they choose, you need to establish that hardware is still a part of the overall solution. Not only do you need to take your customers through a re-education process, you and your team will also need to be able to answer the following questions:

  • What hardware supply chain changes need to be made and how they might potentially impact a SDS project.
  • How customers can achieve high performance and availability with their hardware, while reaping the benefits of software-defined storage.
  • How long the product lifetime is for off-the-shelf storage and what your customers should do when it comes to replacing or upgrading them.

At this point, your customers are likely to raise questions about capital expenditure and whether or not SDS will lead to return on investment (ROI) for their business. Ensure you explain the benefits of rapid business growth, lack of business downtime, and predictable scalability that can be achieved even though SDS has an underlay of hardware.

Not knowing how your customer really manages their environment

SDS carries with it some big promises around agility and returns on investment (ROI) for your customers. This is likely to increase how quickly they want to adopt SDS throughout their business. You will need to determine the following information:

  • How your customers are currently provisioning storage resources.
  • What legacy interfaces, systems and structures they’re using.
  • How responsive their environments are to changing business demands.

Without this information to hand, you will be at risk of qualifying the wrong opportunity and storage features for your customers, which can cause more inefficiencies than it can solve. The ultimate question you’ll need to ask your customer is what will an SDS implementation help them accomplish that they couldn’t accomplish with their legacy storage solution.

Once you get that question answered, you can use it to qualify an overall SDS opportunity and strategy for your customers that will help them to truly benefit from implementation.

Skipping out staffing changes for SDS

It’s easy to gloss over the importance of staffing when it comes to bringing your customers across to a software-defined storage environment. You need to make them aware of any potential changes they will need to make to really support SDS in their enterprise.

Changes might include:

  • Retraining of storage administrators in virtualisation
  • Saving on headcount and being able to reassign IT staff to other mission critical tasks

SDS benefits the partner as much as it does their customers

Being aware of these pitfalls and successfully overcoming them will lead to success during the sales process. This will satisfy your customer’s requirements and lead to multiple benefits for your own business. We’ve outlined some of the potential benefits for partners below.

Requests for ongoing architecture and configuration support

Your customer will need ongoing assistance with architecture, operations, and maintenance of their SDS environment. They’ll need guidance on how to push the new limits of scalability and flexibility that SDS offers. There could also be opportunities for additional work inside the data centre, in particular, infrastructure redesign from a hardware-defined to a software-defined architecture.

Partners could also find opportunities around SDS hardware configuration consulting. Customers are going to want to realise the benefits of properly tuned and configured hardware for their SDS. Not to mention, there’s going to be work guiding clients on the software side of configuration as well.

Up-sell increasing data centre services

Virtual datacentres are not a new thing, but the opportunity they present are ever-growing. Professional services and sales around other data centre elements including cloud, converged, and software-defined networking are additional opportunities that partners can take advantage of, upsell or cross-sell and ultimately capitalise on.

Alleviating increasing security concerns

SDS offers fundamental changes to your customer’s enterprise storage, which will naturally lead to their concerns around the security of their data in transit and at rest. Arm yourself with knowledge around changing regulations, such as the GDPR, and give your customers advice on how they can contend with developing technologies such as internet of things (IoT) devices and the cloud networking.

Conclusion

To position yourself as a trusted advisor and successfully sell SDS to your existing customer base and to any prospects, you need to be aware of the associated pitfalls and how to overcome them. Get to know your customers, lead with benefits first, and exemplify how you can help them to overcome their concerns.

Being able to navigate around the usual SDS pitfalls sets you up to win the initial deal but also positions you for follow-on SDS and related work with your customer as you can provide counsel, strategy, deployment, implementation and support during their move to SDS.

Takeaways:

  • Develop a solid technical presentation that details the business benefits of SDS for your customers.
  • Build your hardware expertise in-house so you can support the range of storage vendor equipment you may encounter when serving SDS customers
  • Develop a sales call interview script or questionnaire that can help you gauge customer expectations for SDS benefits.
  • Foster a consulting approach that can help you work with customers to realise the positive staffing changes that SDS can bring their IT department.

The Trusted Advisor Blueprint: A definitive guide to software defined storage