ARN: What's driving the storage market at the moment?
Andy Hilton, managing director Simms International: Storage is experiencing rapid growth driven primarily by the rate of data creation - more data will be created over the next two years than in the last 20,000. Organisations are also demanding more manageable and highly available solutions for their life-blood - their data. This could involve simple networked storage solutions right through to clustered servers using multi-site data replication across fibre. There is no doubt that the demand for more disk space with more demanding configurations will continue to make the storage market an interesting one.
In light of current economic conditions, do you think vendors have ramped up their direct presence with customers and/or specific deals?
The dilemma of storage vendors centres on the fact that there are very isolated pockets of storage skills in the channel. Inevitably, the vendors often have to be involved in deals to compensate for the lack of necessary skills they find there. Alternately, Simms allows the reseller to access these skills without recourse to the vendor and provides the vendor with an extension of its own resources.
How difficult is it to convince a potential customer to go with a channel-based solution rather than the one-stop-shop approach touted by some of the larger storage vendors?
The "one-stop-shop" approach will present the customer only with a solution from that vendor's product suite. It may not be the best solution. The channels strength is that it is able to provide the customer with a vendor independent approach to a storage solution. Working with Simms makes this process much easier - we represent the leading storage vendors, we have the experience and we are able to provide a truly vendor independent solution.
If the channel is to be successful, what responsibilities do (a) resellers/distributors have and (b) the vendors have?
Historically, the reseller channel has been ill-equipped to deliver storage solutions, although few are prepared to admit this. Resellers need to recognise the benefit of partnering with a storage specialist as an alternative to developing their own skills, which is a long and costly process. Over time they should certainly develop their own skills. But in the meantime they are missing out on significant margin opportunities and the opportunity to "own" their customers' infrastructure.
Vendors are in a more difficult position. They have the products and the expertise but not the depth of skills in the channel to sell their solutions. I believe they should certainly avoid the temptation to go direct and work to skill up their channels instead.