On Wookiees and providing unreasonable customer service.

It’s been a few weeks since I last blogged and I bet you thought I’d forgotten about you .. or was out frolicking in the snow with the other Storage Wookiees.

No, sorry .. wrong on both counts.  It’s just that Q4 really got me this year, but I’m back now so whether you’re cheering, groaning, or deleting .. I’ll be blogging regularly again.

Now .. there is no getting away from the fact that it is Q4 and, for many of us, there can be quite a bit of stress as we seek to close the year both personally and professionally.  But I have a confession to make .. I really love this time of year.

There are the Chrimbo parties and lunches when you get to meet up and spend time with people that perhaps you haven’t seen all year, the Hanukkah Armadillo, a snowcalypse and Arctic temperatures that bring the UK to a grinding halt .. I mean, hey .. what’s not to love?  London will be back to normal by mid January, and I hear Scotland it due to reopen in June.  And my favourite part of this time of year?  No, not an opportunity for me to use my fireplace app on my iPad. And if you don’t have an iPad, I don’t want you to feel left out so here you go.  Although with the way Adobe Flash lights up a laptop CPU you may not even need a fireplace to keep warm whilst you’re watching that.

But I digress.  My favourite part of this time of year is .. the Starbuck’s Gingerbread Latte.  And when I say favourite, I mean deep down and dirty wookiee love with a capital L .. L-O-V-E the Starbuck’s Gingerbread Latte.  If you don’t like Starbucks and think they are overpriced coloured water merchants, fine .. but I’m here to tell you that I am big time into their Gingerbread Latte.  And as a wise man once said .. ‘Let the wookiee win.’

But since it’s that time of year, here’s a video of Chewbaccah singing ‘Silent Night’ just so there’s no hard feelings.

I went in to Starbucks to buy my first gingerbread latte of the season on the first day they were officially available in the UK .. I probably shouldn’t mention that I also buy the syrup from Starbucks so I can make them at home with my Siemens Nespresso machine .. but, to be fair, they really only taste completely ‘proper’ during the season and from a Starbucks.

And when I went to buy my latte, I got a very pleasant surprise.  The barista, whom I know quite well due to my somewhat severe Starbucks addiction, offered me a Starbucks card.  Why would I want that?, asked I .. It isn’t a credit card so why should I prepay you now for my future lattes?

Because you get free extra shots of coffee, soya milk, flavoured syrup .. and *drum roll* Wifi in all of our stores.  Free.  So that £4.05 grande triple shot sugar free hazelnut latte now costs about £3.50.

Geeeeenius!

What’s this got to do with Data Storage & Protection?

The industry market is quickly consolidating through merger and acquisition .. the most recent being the acquisition of Compellent by Dell, but there have been dozens over the past eighteen months .. indeed, too many to list here.

What has become frightfully obvious through much of this M&A activity is that asking the question ‘is it a product or a feature’ has never been more important as what were once products .. e.g. Data Domain and Diligent with data deduplication, or Storewize and Ocarina for data compression .. were swiftly acquired by much larger storage companies like EMCIBM, and Dell as they surmised that these technologies such as dedupe and compression were actually features and not really products in their own right.

In other words, why not include dedupe, compression, thin provisioning, and automated tiering in the storage array(s) themselves as opposed to individual stand alone products?

Equally, the market seems to be segmenting into three distinct customer behaviours for data storage;

1. Let’s Optimise the Lot – I’m prepared to explore internal change and IT process evolution in the pursuit of lower IT costs and increased business agility, so perhaps a virtual datacentre [VDC] is the right solution as opposed to siloed solutions of storage plus server plus network and so on.  Put more simply .. optimise EVERYTHING, not just storage.

2. Let’s Optimise the Storage – I may want to optimise the lot in the fullness of time, but right now I need to optimise my data storage to reduce my storage costs specifically.

3. I Need a Bucket – I will optimise my storage and possibly everything else when I can, but right now I need an efficient and cost effective bit bucket.

Now, at Computacenter we have solutions which credibly and competitively address each of these areas but this is where the lattes come in in my opinion.

Just like Starbucks have realised that they need to provide unreasonable customer service to continue to get people to buy their coffees .. i.e. give away much of what, perhaps, their competition wouldn’t .. so too must we consider what we could do to give unreasonable customer service to our customers not just in Q4, but throughout the year.

If I’m buying a bucket .. what options and features might be available to me that I haven’t asked you for?  Might I be able to get data dedupe, data compression, or automated tiering to make my purchase even more cost effective?  And how will my purchase enable me to either optimise my storage and/or entire IT infrastructure next year?

If I’m looking to optimise the storage .. what vendor partners include the features as part of the array price versus those, for example, who will make me pay more just to automate the tiering of my data?  How can I get the most storage optimisation per spent pound?  And how can I leverage my optimised storage purchase when I seek to optimise the lot next year?

If I’m looking to optimise the lot .. how will my purchase enable me to connect to external service providers in the future?  How will I be able to retain my structured data internally in a fully optimised state whilst shipping out my unstructured data to an external service provider .. safely, reliably, and securely?

Starbucks with the freebies offered with their Starbucks card is but one example of offering unreasonable customer service .. I think Amazon including free 3G on their Kindle as part of the £149 purchase price is another.

I’m committed to helping Computacenter be another such example, so please feel free to contact me or Bill McGloin if we can help provide you unreasonable customer service either now in the last days of Q4 or in 2011.

For now, here’s a video of Chewbaccah singing the blues .. which is what I hope Australia will be doing when we win the Ashes.

Look out next week for my 2011 predictions and a Happy Christmas/New Years to you and yours.

-Matthew

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