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Cerberus…who writes the RFP?

October 31st, 2008 by Steven Schwartz
Cerberus, picture by William Blake (18th cent.

Image via Wikipedia

In the past 10 years RFP (Request for Proposal) has been growing in the mid-Enterprise space.  I actually saw an RFP, written by Glasshouse under contract, for a smaller law firm in Illinois.  This RFP was about 80 pages (25 of witch were detailed technical questions on SAN, NAS, and Backup/Recovery).  This customer wanted the entire solution of the top three chosen vendors set-up for testing in the Vendor’s labs, for a minimum of two weeks for the customer to test performance, features, and functionality.  Additionally, they wanted to fully test replication and application failover during this lab time, they required the full proposal to be built out with the proposed servers, switches, storage, etc.  Now I’m all for bending over backwards for a customer, but to put together a FULL POC(proof of Concept) with NO Conditional Purchase Order in place???  I’m not unreasonable, but this seemed a bit unreasonable.  The reality, budget got pulled away from this IT project for the customer, and the RFP was killed.  However, in the process for responding to the RFP there were several questions that were “crafted” to a specific solution from a specific vendor.


RFP Authors


     So, this leads me to who authors a customer RFP.  In complete disclosure, when I was  Infrastructure Architect many years ago, and I had personally chosen the solution I felt was write for our company, I wrote an RFP (which was required by our purchasing process) that leaned very heavily in features and specifications toward a single vendors product.  I would assume that others have done the same, however, where I drew the line, was letting the vendor help me write the RFP.


     The “consulting firm” is also contracted for RFP creation.  In general, hired contractors are just that, they have a job to do, and they get paid for it.  They typically have relationships with the customer and with vendors.  The problem with a consulting firms, is typically they are also paid for implementation and design work as well, they have a bag of vendors that they know work, and they know enough about to meet the customers requirements.  The problem with this model, it is usually a biased opinion, NOT INTENTIONALLY!!!!


     Lastly, the vendor.  I’ve had several vendors over the years offer to “help” with canned RFP templates,so that “I wouldn’t have to start from scratch”.  Clearly, we know all of the legal, ethical and moral problems with this approach.  This is disgusting behavior on the part of a vendor!


     So, in order to help potential customers and vendors out there I’ve put together the following list of terms and phrases that are RED FLAGS that an RFP has been written for a specific product.  This helps customers, so that they don’t use terms like this causing other vendors the in-ability to compete.  This helps vendors, because it shows if an RFP has been “unintentionally” biased.  This are primarily geared to storage RFPs.


  1. Storage Group
    1. Most likely PS-Series, Dell | Equallogic
  2. Member(s)
    1. Most likely PS-Series, Dell | Equallogic
  3. All Inclusive
    1. PS-Series, Dell | Equallogic
    2. SAN IQ, LeftHand Networks (HP in 2009)
  4. Frameless Architecture
    1. PS-Series, Dell | Equallogic
    2. SAN IQ, LeftHand Networks (HP in 2009)
  5. Campus SAN
    1. SAN iQ, LeftHand Networks (HP in 2009)
  6. Data Progression
    1. Compellent
  7. Commodity Architecture
    1. SAN IQ, LeftHand Networks (HP in 200)
    2. Compellent
  8. Filer (Clustered Filers)
    1. NetApp
  9. Aggregates
    1. NetApp
  10. FlexVol
    1. NetApp
  11. Primary Volume A-SIS
    1. NetApp
  12. High Performance RAID6 (Fast RAID6)
    1. NetApp
  13. Meta Volumes
    1. EMC
  14. Business Continuance Volumes
    1. EMC
  15. Shadowimage
    1. HDS
  16. Composite Device
    1. HDS
  17. TrueCopy
    1. HDS
  18. FlashCopy
    1. IBM
  19. Space-Efficient Disks
    1. IBM
  20. Global Mirror
    1. IBM
  21. Grid Containers
    1. SUN | STK
  22. Predictive Self-Healing
    1. SUN | STK

     This list can go on and on, but these are some common ones that I’ve seen in some recent RFPs that have crossed my desk.





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Posted in Enterprise, General | 10 Comments »

  • http://blog.fosketts.net Stephen Foskett

    As someone who writes RFPs for work, I have to agree that people ought to be realistic about what they ask for. When I’m writing one, I always watch out for “steered” statements, like the terms you mention. I also advise to make up an RFP based on functional requirements, not features, so mine would not likely include ANY of those terms.

    But I ought to point out that “Business Continuance Volume” was coined at Compaq/DEC StorageWorks, not at EMC, as far as I remember…

  • http://storagebod.typepad.com Martin G

    I’ve been involved in a few RFPs and at times I will use a phrase which references a specific vendor’s product as an example of the functionality; often I’ll try to reference a couple of examples to try to avoid steering an RFP. It’s a bit lazy and I’m just using it for short-hand.

    I’ll state that I’ve never had a vendor assist in producing an RFP, assistance has been offered mind you but its simply unethical IMO.

  • Cleanur

    I see these terms re banded about all the time across RFP’s. I’m sure many of these are canned documents that get shared, especially across public sector. The worst part is that by rehashing these. Requesting features rather than function, the customer actually does themselves a dis service by alienating potential suppliers. Although on the face of it this can cut down the research necessary to produce an accurate RFP, how on earth can you score responses accurately based on semantics and feature lists alone. If the RFP has too much of a bias then the only people who’ll run the risk and cost of taking the time to respond are the owners of the referenced features. Afterall it’s a simple tick box for them, for eveyrone else it’s like wading through mud trying to position equivalent features.

  • nate

    I’m having a million dollar(list price) storage system installed over the next week as an evaluation and the vendors involved agreed to a no strings attached return policy. They expect us to buy it, and we intend to buy it but the language in the agreement was pretty simple, if we don’t give them a PO by a certain date we can get out of the deal without a hitch. Though I didn’t write an RFP. I just went to the vendor and worked out a solution that should work for us. They originally wanted a commitment to purchase based on acceptance criteria but eventually agreed to the no questions asked policy. They don’t do it for everyone of course I do have previous experience with the vendor so they know me well.

  • http://www.productosdecolombia.com Cesar Moves

    I can relate to this ! , I’ve heard some goody things about this blog ! I bookmarked it on my favorites and will visit it again for more interesting posts like this one, Thanks

  • http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/0/321/RipOff0321145.htm Tim Reynolds

    Nice post. Thank you for the info. Keep it up.

  • YoBaby

    C’mon fellas…if you are assisting with an RFP you are going to write it so that you can win the deal. Anything less and you wouldn’t be doing your job. Get real, and quit trying to be so neutral…you are manufacturer reps and everyone knows it.

  • http://make-money-on-pc.blogspot.com Business Entrepreneur

    Great content! I just came across your blog and actually read your posts! I wish you would post more often. It is hard to find good informative blog like yours! Thanks for the information. – Versa

  • http://www.google.com dudeguy

    It’s ok to have a comment.

  • http://www.dobox.com/ Bruce

    C’mon fellas…if you are assisting with an RFP you are going to write it so that you can win the deal. Anything less and you wouldn’t be doing your job. Get real, and quit trying to be so neutral…you are manufacturer reps and everyone knows it.