It’s the classic IT question: Do I stick with the incumbent vendor, or look at the alternatives? Here’s a story of one IT manager’s 2 1/2 year-long journey to hell and back.

Since this is the Cloudian blog, you can guess the ending, but it’s a fun read provided by Cloudian partner, SymStor.

The IT manager writing here prefers to remain nameless. Enjoy!


Well here we go…

I’ve just started a meeting with my incumbent storage vendor and today they want to talk to us about data protection. They are polite and professional, and introduce us to our new account manager, the third one this year. So, with a little smirk you imagine the first account manager left, the second has been moved to another vertical and the third account manager…well…err…his watch is bigger than his face and I’m finding it a little difficult to take them seriously.

The vendor pitch…

Round table introductions have now been completed, and they start the PowerPoint slides. Not one of them has asked about how our current environment is performing, what we have, what our requirements are, or what sort of issues we experience. They’ve just jumped straight into presentation mode.

Let the blind-siding begin I thought, they have bedazzled everyone in the room, including my manager who makes the final decision, by showing everyone amazing data protection PowerPoint and how they can solve all your problems.

A momentary pause happens. I grab the chance to intervene and start to explain our current issues, and how we would envisage how the future of data protection for our environment should be shaped. As soon as I take a breath the incumbent hijacks the conversation half-way through and describes how our infrastructure is architected with ANOTHER slide. This time, the slide details how applications, virtual and physical systems can be protected with cloud integration scalability.

At that point, I switch off and wait to voice my concerns to my colleagues and the management after the meeting.

Let’s fast forward 6 months, the decision’s been made…long sigh… whilst I exhale! My company has signed a five-year deal with ‘said’ incumbent vendor. The vendor’s professional services team rocks up and start deploying the “NEW” data protection platform. They are a nice bunch of chaps… wait for it…and they will be on-site for the next 3-6 months deploying, configuring and tweaking the platform.

What got delivered…

As I got started and into the swing of it (I don’t want the project to fail) I seem to feel that certain aspects of the truth are getting stretched and a little thin on content. The virtual backup server struggles to be “highly available”. We need to deploy multiple servers for reporting, media and device management. Every hyper-visor storage platform requires a virtual proxy…and the list goes on and on.

In total, the following number of products and servers that had to be deployed to enable data protection for up to 2,500 servers is as follows:

  • 1 x Backup server
  • 1 x Backup Management Console
  • 1 x Reporting Database server
  • 1 x Reporting Application server
  • 1 x License Manager server
  • 4 x Media & Device Management nodes
  • 7 x Virtual Proxies for backup up virtual machines
  • 2 x Data target deduplication appliances
  • 2 x Cloud Appliance (different deduplication algorithm than above?)
  • 2 x Virtual Machine Recovery appliances

That’s just bonkers…

The above deployment list was made up of seven different technologies that were supposedly integrated and seamless. Casting my mind back I referred to the copy of the PowerPoint that the vendor left us. They must really pay their marketing department big bucks to produce such a slick slide deck!

Operational nightmare and the cost…

Now, fast forward 2.5 years and I’m rapidly losing the will to be in this industry. Over the last 30 months, I counted that we had opened 47 support calls over this period. Remember we are half-way through our 5-year term and now we need to pay for more hardware to expand our deduplication appliances and increased support renewal costs, as well as pay for professional services to come back and upgrade our backup software etc.…

What’s that on the horizon?

The moment I took that call, the voice on the other end of the phone claimed that they do backup better, simpler, faster and with a TCO that will stack-up against all the upgrades that I am about to be burdened with from our existing vendor.

Not sure if I should laugh or cry at the moment…The chap on the phone said he was technical and proceeded to ask me questions about our existing environment, capacities, applications, platforms, issues, challenges etc.

At this point I have nothing to lose, so I opened-up and talked to them for over an hour. It was an enjoyable hour, as they were genuinely interested in making sure that they could deliver everything that I wanted.

At first, I was pessimistic, with a pinch of “all vendors tell me that they can do it all”. So, we agreed to have an online demonstration a few days later to give me a chance to herd my co-workers together.

Well, what can I say? The demonstration was amazing, easy to use, simple to configure and deploy. All applications were protected, ultra-fast search was available for backup data, application recovery was a no brainer and recovery of systems on-premise or in the cloud was just…. WOW!

How do we proceed, we asked? “Well, what we would like to do is understand how much you have to spend over the next three years on your existing backup platform, including software upgrades, hardware expansion, maintenance renewals and professional services engagements.”

All this was shared with the company and they performed due diligence and kept it realistic. They worked out that we would be saving £1.3 million over the next three years, over the cost of keeping our existing backup platform.

The result…

The company officially presented to our management team. Our finance team verified and validated the savings. Two weeks of discussions followed, and we then agreed that a purchase order be placed with terms, conditions and criteria to be met for their solution to replace the existing data protection platform.

What did SymStor deliver?

SymStor spent four days implementing the whole solution, two of which was physical racking and stacking. The other two days were spent configuring data protection, archiving and cloud tiering policies.

Do you know what the nicest thing was? The customer thanked SymStor for delivering such an easy-to-use data protection platform.

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