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Storage partnership under the spotlight
with Mark Shirman, President and CEO of GlassHouse Technologies


In March 2009, Bull signed a partnership with GlassHouse Technologies to jointly deliver storage consulting services throughout Europe with the aim to help organizations identify potential storage economies and benefit from new storage optimization technologies.

M. Shirman, B. Hallez
From left to right: Mark Shirman, President and CEO, GlassHouse Technologies
and Benoît Hallez, Director of Bull's storage business.

What do you see as the main priorities for IT Departments when it comes to storage infrastructures?
Mark Shirman: Today, most storage environments are very inefficient not only in terms of costs and service, but also sometimes from a risk perspective. All three issues can be addressed to deliver rapid ROI. There are ways to manage your storage environment so utilization is high and data is moved cost-effectively to the appropriate infrastructure. That’s facilitated by creating processes, systems and reports to deliver better transparency and measurement.

Has your vision changed since you founded GlassHouse in 2001?
MS: Not really. We saw a need for independent advice on optimizing customers’ infrastructure environments. The gap between what people knew and what they needed to know was wide and they needed practical help. That hasn’t changed. If environments have become more complex, technologies and business processes are more complicated and costs have grown.

In difficult economic times, how can storage assessment services help IT Departments?
MS: The number one priority right now is costs: a lot of money is wasted in storage and IT infrastructure. Utilization rates can be as low as 20%. That’s like having a warehouse that is only 20% full and buying another warehouse. IT Departments also have to convince the business they are delivering value. We create a dialogue between them, so that the IT people can justify their value to the organization. We think of it as creating ‘storage heroes’ inside our customer organizations. We usually start with a small-scale, action-oriented assessment taking just 4-6 weeks, to get a quick picture of the current environment, so we can work with the customers on the shape of their future environment. But often this leads to a longer-term relationship.

Do you think ‘Green IT’ equates to optimization and cost control?
MS: Green IT is good for the environment and saves money by finding ways to reduce energy consumption and the carbon footprint of the Data Center. Take a project we just finished for a pharmaceutical company in the United States: our advice resulted in the equivalent of taking 2,000 cars off the road and planting 1,200 trees. It’s good business. It’s a win-win opportunity for everybody.
Another example is a leading UK telecommunications company, one of our major customers. Their Data Centers represent 0.1% of the UK power grid; that’s huge! In moving and consolidating their Data Centers, we saved hundreds of millions of dollars from carbon footprint and put them on the path to green IT.

What is your strategy for GlassHouse and how does the Bull partnership fit in?
MS: We built the company so we could scale up without always adding people. We did this by building our own intellectual property, tools and software, which allowed our services to be productized. They look like a product; they can be ‘boxed’. So we can now join forces with companies like Bull – who have strong customer relationships, can overcome language barriers and who are experienced in our target markets – and we can deliver our productized services through them.
And it benefits Bull too, by helping to differentiate themselves from other suppliers. Our independence gives us more credibility than consultants from storage vendors, it’s not about hardware sales; it’s about making storage environments work and building better long-term relationships. That’s good for Bull’s image too. The key benefits for customers are cost optimization, increased service levels, lower risk and more transparency.