The need for total visibility and centralized management of the data center are causing savvy IT managers to seek alternative solutions to traditional data center configurations. More and more of those pursuing faster implementation and higher ROI are turning to Pre-Fabricated solutions to answer their challenges. Despite growing popularity, many are still unfamiliar with these out-of-the box solutions and therefore, have been slow to adopt them. At Ingram Micro, Greg Richey, Director – Professional & Training Services, runs into two common questions when assisting partners with the configuration of these solutions for their customers.
#1 – The pre-fabricated solution isn’t exactly what I need and it includes some stuff I don’t need. Does that mean it’s not the right fit?
By definition, pre-fabricated solutions are sold as a pre-engineered bundle of equipment and sometimes software. The solutions may include a lot of different equipment for networking, servers, and storage and some also include the rack, cooling, and a UPS so they can literally be rolled onto the data center floor, plugged in, and the installation is complete. The simplicity of that has tremendous appeal to busy data center managers, but what if it’s not a perfect fit for the customer requirement?
Greg Richey and his team at Ingram Micro recommend keeping the customer focused on the particular business challenge they are trying to solve and asking if the pre-fabricated solution can solve that challenge – regardless of any extra “stuff” that may be included. Richey elaborates, “Presenting a complex requirement and then demonstrating the simplicity of a complete build-out that’s fully integrated and particular to the problem the customer has changes the relationship from supplier to consultant or partner.”
One of the primary benefits that pre-fabricated solutions offer is the ability to centrally monitor and manage the equipment. Because it has all been integrated to work together, the day-to-day management of the solution is much simpler. As Greg describes it, “The idea of a fully-certified solution embedded into a data center is attractive because it makes installation and ongoing management simple. The customer has peace of mind knowing that the solution will work right out of the box. It’s important to keep the customer focused on the primary benefits of the solution and how they solve their business challenge.”
Speed of deployment is also a big factor to consider when recommending pre-fabricated solutions. Is your customer working against a tight timeline? Using an out-of-the-box solution that have already been pre-engineered and is guaranteed to work shortens the design phase tremendously. Pre-fabricated solutions are generally more cost-effective than a la carte configurations, making it a great option for budget-conscious customers.
#2 – Pre-fabrication offers a complete solution, but what about all of the equipment I already own that doesn’t need replacement?
Most pre-fabricated solutions are designed to be flexible in their implementation. In most cases, the customer will need some one-off equipment to complete or customize their solution. Great. Go ahead and use the existing server your customer purchased and installed several months ago just be sure that the power and cooling can support the extra load. Rolling a plug and play rack of equipment onto the data center floor doesn’t magically solve all of the challenges that your customer is facing. Nor does it automatically obsolete the existing infrastructure. Some customization is inevitable.
Think of pre-fabricated infrastructure as a building block – not necessarily a complete and total solution. In many cases, customers use it to start building new network closets or small data centers. The intention is not to replace all of the gear in the existing site; it’s to provide a base infrastructure that is centrally monitored and managed with other equipment added on as needed. It is important that your customer does not view it as an attempt to replace their current infrastructure, but rather, it’s designed to be a strong base with which to simplify management of the data center.
Greg Richey recommends the customer complete a data center assessment to identify potential problem areas or locate stranded capacity. An EnergySTEP1 data center assessment is a great place to start. Richey explains, “Completing a power assessment not only provides benefit to the end user, it demonstrates a level of effort and positions the reseller to propose a complete solution.” With an assessment completed, you will have a good idea of the current equipment your customer has, what may need to be replaced, and what can be reused.
No matter how robust the pre-engineered solution that you present, it is important that the customer is not left with the impression that you are trying to replace everything and disregard the recent capital expenses they have already made with their existing equipment. While these pre-fabricated solutions are intended to include a data center in a box, they are also meant to integrate into the existing infrastructure. And that’s where DCIM tools such as StruxureWare come into play. Remember that data center managers are demonstrating more demand for centralized monitoring and management; so be sure to show the customer how StruxureWare can ensure the pre-fabricated solution integrates into their existing data center.
Of course, there will be some occasions where recommending a pre-fabricated solution is not appropriate. As a partner, it is important that you do the upfront discovery and gain a true understanding of the problem the customer is trying to solve. Recommending the correct solution will minimize objections and make it much easier to close the sale.