How do most enterprises source new storage hardware and services? They whip up an RFP (request for proposal). Unfortunately, too many RFP authors fail to fully understand why they're writing one or what should or should not be included, dramatically reducing the quality of the responses.
One the other hand, a good RFP can yield unexpected benefits. Even if you already know what you want -- and you're following the RFP process only because you have to -- a well-crafted RFP will often yield ideas you hadn't thought of on your own.
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Know your RFP mindset
If you're charged with writing an RFP for storage, chances are you're in one of three different situations:
- You've already decided what you want to buy and maybe even from whom, but corporate policy requires you to get a certain number of proposals before you can pull the trigger.
- You haven't decided exactly what you want to buy, but you know what you need in terms of technical capabilities.
- You're really not sure what you need to solve the storage problems you face and want all the advice you can get.
If you already know exactly what you want, try to pretend that you don't know while you're writing the proposal. Even if you're just seeking a few more shelves of disk for an existing SAN, be as broad as you can when you define the RFP -- you may be surprised to find that those additional shelves may cost more than a completely new SAN platform that is both faster and more feature-rich (it's not particularly common, but I have seen this happen).
The sweet spot for the RFP process is reserved for those who know in granular terms what their technical requirements are, but have not determined what to buy. Even if you're not required to write an RFP and you're dealing with a trusted vendor, writing an RFP that details your requirements is a great way to minimize misunderstandings about the capabilities and services that need to be delivered. The up-front work will save you time in the long run.