Fujitsu Siemens Computers says small and medium enterprises need help in realising that networked storage can be easier to manage and cheaper to own than servers each with their own storage island.

It is training up its channel partners to better sell networked storage products launched six months or so ago.

Marcus Schneider, FSC's EMEA infrastructure products director, said FSC was running Fibre Days for storage education across Europe. FSC is giving its channel a high fibre diet and enabling it to better deal with customer problems over compliance, unstructured data growth and server virtualisation.

The latter is key as server virtualisation almost mandates server consolidation, from direct-attach storage (DAS) to networked storage. FSC is pushing its FibreCAT storage area network (SAN) products through its resellers.The aim is to have dedicated storage people and the Fibre Days are a quick fix for sales people, a kind of pre-sales familiarity raiser.

Schneider said: "We want to make it very easy to deploy our solutions (products). Setting up a SAN shouldn't be rocket science." Ditto backup. The 3-generation backup idea is not complex but complexity is added with backing up virtual servers. Replication is also a relatively new idea. "We want to make replication simpler and more affordable. We give the DuplexDataManager software away for free," he added. Its use is almost mandated if customers are running a Microsoft cluster environment.

He is convinced that this tactic should have a strong appeal to customers on cost grounds: "EMC's Clariion synchronous replication is dramatically more expensive." However, he added that the SME market needs informing about the features, possibilities and advantages of replication. "Most of our SME channel partners need education about this. It's a step on from tape and backup."

He talked about a combined server and storage course, additional training for pre- and post-sales support people, and it becomes clear that FSC is making a sustained push into the SME storage market. Why is this?

The FSC storage products are not new, most being just a few months old. What FSC has realised is that, in my view, a more consultative selling style is needed, one which looks behind server purchase enquiries from SME customers and tries to find out if there is a storage consolidation opportunity behind them.

SMEs need help

Sean Haffey, a storage product manager at Fujitsu Siemens Computers, said a typical small to medium enterprise (SME) could be his local council, Hart in Hampshire, with around 60 separate servers, each with its own storage, and no SAN. "It started off with a few servers and just added more and more. Now it's ready for the big step and maybe could use help."

Haffey says that, just as large enterprises have already experienced, SMEs are encountering significant growth in unstructured data and increasingly burdensome data management. Storage networking is the answer but: "High-end datacentres have teams of people to do that. SMEs don't. So the channel needs educated people."

What happens, he says, is that an SME will face a lack of server or storage resource and buy another server to solve both problems. It's been the easy option for a reseller to simply sell another server as a default response. FSC is now training its UK channel partners to have sales people find out the background to such a server purchase and detect networked storage opportunities.

Haffey said: "The point of the training is to make resellers aware that they can ask a couple of questions and tease out a consolidated storage/consolidated servers opening." Some three hundred FSC partner sales staff in the UK are being trained with associated pre- and post-sales staff training as well.

The products FSC is offering include My Very First SAN, launched six months ago, FibreCAT network-attached storage (NAS) and tape devices, and DuplexDataManager replication software.


iSCSI

The SAN product is a Fibre Channel (FC) one. Answering a suggestion that Ethernet iSCSI SANs could be easier to implement, Schneider responded: "We worked very closely with Brocade and Emulex. The new FC SAN is very easy to deploy." He added: "For most of our server partners storage is something new."

Schneider added: "We believe in iSCSI. It can be well suited to an SME customer lacking Fibre Channel skills. But we don't see our role as one of making markets. The requirements we hear from customers are for Fibre Channel. Fibre Channel growth is faster than NAS. We listen to market requirements. We support what the market wants. We are not missionaries."

Haffey says we can expect to see a wave of server virtualisation and storage networking wash over the SME market. Other vendors are also focusing on channel partners. EMC, for example, has just enhanced its Velocity partner programme. NetApp has launched its StoreVault product line. HP has its All-in-One products for this market.

FSC seems to be going further, and perceiving that SMEs on their own won't choose storage networking without a persuasive push from SAN-aware and replication-aware resellers, is training its channel partners to sell storage in a new way. When a customer says 'can I have a new server please' an FSC reseller will ask 'what is your storage situation?' It's all about networking now.