IN THE HOT SEAT: Sailing into unchartered waters

IN THE HOT SEAT: Sailing into unchartered waters

McData's recent acquisition of CNT has kept A/NZ country manager, Ken Cooper busy. He's engineered a new distribution tier and reseller channel and overseen a 300 per cent increase in local staffing numbers. And all this while managing existing relationships with major OEM partners like EMC and HP. Now he's tasked with focusing the channel for a charge into the SMB storage networking space.

What's your background?
Ken Cooper (KC): I have been in the industry since 1980. I started with Digital Equipment and had a career that spanned the broad spectrum of channel activities in IT. I then spent nine years looking after American ERP vendor, Symix, in Thailand.When South-East Asia fell in a heap I came back to Australia and ended up working as the Asia-Pacific distribution manger for ATL, which was taken over by Quantum. I joined McData three years ago as the ANZ manager.

What are your responsibilities?
KC: My focus is to grow McData locally which is a challenge. Australia is very mature in its understanding of technology but it's a little slow to adopt it as it likes to see what the technology can do first. We traditionally address enterprise-level companies and help them with challenges around consolidating their storage infrastructure. With the recent acquisition of CNT we now have a range of products and services which are suited to the mid-market.

How has McData's channel structure changed in light of the new acquisition?
KC: We recently created a distribution tier and appointed IDS-G to help take some of the products we have gained from CNT to market. We previously sold only through OEM partners EMC, IBM, HDS, HP and Sun/SDK.

How will you balance your existing OEM relationships against IDS-G's?
KC: It's an expansion of the McData market so there are no conflicts for partners. We have also appointed dedicated account management reps for each of our OEM partners and a channel manager, Brendan O'Reilly, to oversee it all. He will help get IDS-G and our OEMs performing. For example, we will go to EMC distributors like LAN Systems to do training, product updates, incentives, promos and roadshows for them.

Why realign your channel for mid-market reach?
KC: Price is a big reason. Three years ago, fibre channel switching was expensive, directors were a huge asset purchase for any company, and storage on a per port basis was very expensive.

Today the market is swinging toward SMBs, which are deploying their IT infrastructure through fabric switch technology rather than the high availability sort. The space just underneath - the major banks, telcos and utilities - now have a need and a way to deploy fibre channel.

They're also concerned about disaster recovery, data replication and some infrastructure consolidation. Three years ago our OEM partners would have sold 30 per cent fabric switches and 70 per cent high-end directors, where now it's almost flipped around.

What challenges are you facing in your role? Is consolidation starting to wane?
KC: No, we are more actively engaged with working with companies in their consolidation of infrastructure.

Enterprise is maintaining its size but we are seeing growth in the mid-market. Brocade [McData partner] is very well established at the low-end and within the reseller channel, hence the reason we are focusing our resources and ensuring we get a greater-than-fair-share of that market.

What do you see as your main achievements of the past year?
KC: I think the achievement we have had in the channel is the ability to bring on resources to manage it properly. It's been a frustration that we haven't been able to resolve and is very much to do with the chicken and egg syndrome.

Results manufacture resources and revenue generates head count. With two people at McData - before the CNT acquisition - there was only so much we could do.

In the year ahead our success will be in achieving greater market share - within the channel itself and the end-user market. We have traditionally recorded a 30 per cent year on year growth in ANZ and will be looking at continuing that but with added emphasis from the reseller channel.

If you weren't in IT where would you be?
KC: Sailing. I'm a yachting person and used to have a 38-foot ketch. It's my sport and recreation. I have never done the Sydney to Hobart race - I've no need to be sea-sick for three days or have a water spout go over the bow.

But I have done the Whitsunday race and sailed around the Great Barrier Reef. It's not so treacherous - maps are pretty accurate these days.

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