Storage infrastructure on the tender track

For a large-scale storage project, it's not uncommon to go out to tender for the best deal — but when was the last time you had to put together a tender for a document management room?

For a large-scale storage project, it's not uncommon to go out to tender for the best deal — but when was the last time you had to put together a tender for a document management room?

I've just been on a brief trip to India, where tendering for absolutely everything seems to be a way of life, at least if the advertisements in the newspapers are any guide. Whether it's a business title or a mass-market tabloid, every other square centimetre is filled with invitations to tender for everything from freeway construction to sewerage removal. Combined with endless memorial advertisements for long-departed relatives, it creates a print ambience, which is nothing whatsoever like the Daily Telegraph.

As a professional storage watcher, I was naturally curious to see if IT infrastructure was part of this trend. For the most part, the answer seems to be "no". One potential explanation is that such advertisements only appear in specialist publications, but that doesn't account for the diverse range of options that are otherwise being sought. Another possibility is that with so much basic infrastructure to build for an expanding population, IT for public works is somewhat lower down the scale.

One tender for a "disaster management system" for Indian Railways initially held some promise, but turned out to be for computer training systems to help staff deal with higher volumes of traffic and the accidents that seem to inevitably follow — not an area I think EMC or IBM will be clamouring to fill in a big hurry. (Though I was taken by this interesting disclaimer: "This is a working day but if subsequently declared a holiday for any reason, the tenders will be opened on next working day.")

Indian Railways did, however, have another tender relating to storage and document management, albeit on an astonishingly basic level. Tender 197-S-104 seeks bids for "Provision of Portable Cabin for record maintenance at C&W wing of DRM office".

Now, this record maintenance does seem to have an electronic component, since the provision of a desk with keyboard access and room for a monitor is a core requirement of the tender. However, there's more information on the kind of paint needed for outside the building and the specifications for venetian blinds than there is on the technical side.

Attention to detail is important for any IT project, but when it comes to specifying office layout, most IT managers are lucky to get consideration for anything other than security and cooling issues. You probably don't want to have this kind of consideration added to your daily task list, but it's something to bear in mind if an Indian IT services company starts head-hunting you.

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