A Compellent Case for Green ITBy Pedro Pereira | Print
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The storage vendor is banking on its energy-efficient technology to resonate with partners and customers.
As the green-IT movement gains momentum, a lot of vendors are elbowing each other to get to the front of the line of environmentally friendly technology companies.
For the most part, though, the focus is on reducing power consumption and the costs associated with it. The argument to the customer, therefore, typically centers on reducing costs. In that sense, storage upstart Compellent isn't all that different from the crowd.
But the company has more claim to a green mentality than others, because even before green was vogue, Compellent, founded in 2004, was already developing SAN (storage area network) technology that was inherently frugal, as a result of features such as thin provisioning and automated-storage tiering.
As such, the vendor wants to make a compelling case to its channel partners to push its technology as efficient and ecologically friendly, something likely to resonate with customers in an era of high-energy costs. And to sweeten the deal for partners, Compellent does business only through the channel, so there is no risk of conflict with a direct sales staff.
"We made an early decision that we were going to focus exclusively through the channel," says Bob Fine, director of product marketing for Compellent.
To drive that point home, Fine says, Compellent developed a "channel-assist" approach, rather than a run-of-the-mill partner model.
"We also recognized that just calling a model an all-channel model would not be sufficient," Fine says.
All purchases from Compellent are made to order, and partners have the option of using an online configuration tool to build solutions to customer specifications. Compellent does not publish a price list to users, which the vendor argues gives partners more leeway in setting prices and getting decent profit margins.
Compellent also supports partners with training and marketing and technical tools, and employs a field-sales force that acts as consultants to partners.
Michael Beach, the vendor's vice president of sales operations, says the all-channel model eliminates confusion.
Compellent has roughly 230 partners, about 30 percent of which focus on storage. Beach says he wants to grow partner ranks in a controlled way.
"We're always interested in the cream of the crop," he says. "We want to be careful not to oversubscribe."
Beach says some partners are beginning to latch onto the green-IT message in selling the technology, and some have won deals as a result.
Still, getting the green message out isn't a priority for everyone. "It's the greenbacks that resonate more with customers," says Fine. "There's some suspicion in the market, since everyone's jumping on the green bandwagon."
The hyping of green technology, in fact, may prove counterproductive, according to research firm Gartner, as it creates demand and confusion among users. In a paper called "Dataquest Insight: What Green IT Means to the Channel," Gartner argues that green IT is potentially beneficial, but solution providers must take clear steps to build their green credentials and work with vendors whose products contribute to those credentials.
"Beware of simply pushing the green message without having a strategy and execution plan to manage against," Gartner cautioned in its paper, authored by analysts Rakesh Kumar and Tiffani Bova.
Compellent's green message revolves around the company's technology approach, which includes thin provisioning, a process that allows more efficient storage utilization. Analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group estimates that thin provisioning can reduce physical disk utilization by as much as 75 percent, though typically, between 40 to 60 percent.